SEATTLE -- Though they consider themselves sellers as Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, the Mets have been cautious not to strip their roster of its most critical pieces. They intend to compete for a postseason berth in 2018.
As if to prove it, the Mets on Friday acquired Marlins closer AJ Ramos for prospects Merandy Gonzalez (ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the Mets' No. 9 prospect) and Ricardo Cespedes (No. 22).
The Mets are still trying to deal their own interim closer, Addison Reed, before Monday, according to a team source. But unlike Reed, who can become a free agent in November, Ramos is under team control next season.
"I think the guys ought to be a little fired up to know we've got some help coming," manager Terry Collins said. "AJ's an outstanding pitcher. He gives us another back-of-the-game guy, which is tremendously helpful. Whether [Reed] closes or not, we've got another closer down there, and that means a lot to us."
Like Reed, Ramos has proven adept in the ninth inning. In 40 games for the Marlins, Ramos compiled a 3.63 ERA with 20 saves. He made his first All-Star team in 2016, and holds a career 2.78 ERA dating back to 2012. Arbitration-eligible for the final time this winter, Ramos can expect a bump over the $6.55 million he is making in 2017.
The move gives the Mets three rocks at the back of their 2018 bullpen: closer Jeurys Familia, who is recovering from arterial surgery; Ramos; and left-hander Jerry Blevins, who has a $7 million team option on his contract. Paul Sewald, Hansel Robles and recently acquired prospect Drew Smith could also figure into the mix.
Notably absent from that conversation is Reed, whom the Mets expect to deal before Monday's Deadline. A source recently said as many as eight teams have inquired seriously about Reed, who has saved 18 games with a 2.63 ERA this year. The Brewers, Dodgers, Red Sox and D-backs are all reportedly among them.
But Reed is hardly the only late-inning reliever available on the trade market, which gave the Mets additional incentive to acquire Ramos: In doing so, they sliced off some of the trade market's inventory.
"If I'm here [next year], it's going to be a pretty solid bullpen with the addition of [Ramos]," Reed said. "If I'm not here, it's still going to be pretty dang good with him coming. ... I honestly have no idea [if I'll be here]. If I did, I'd have my wife start packing up the apartment. Everything's still there, so I'll just come to the field every day."
With or without Reed, the move signals that the Mets are intent on competing in 2018. Their status as sellers does not extend beyond pending free agents Lucas Duda, whom they dealt to Tampa Bay on Thursday, infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, and possibly outfielders Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson. Blevins is not on the market, according to a source, and the Mets' willingness to give Bruce a qualifying offer makes them less likely to trade him. Jacob deGrom? He's not going anywhere.
The Mets may be sellers, in other words, but their vision remains short-term, allowing them to stomach the loss of two young prospects. Gonzalez went 8-1 with a 1.55 ERA at Class A Columbia before a promotion to Class A Advanced St. Lucie. He is 21 years old. Cespedes was batting .225 with a .524 OPS in 21 games for Class A Brooklyn (short season). He's just 19.
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Ramos' fantasy value takes a significant hit with this deal. The right-hander may temporarily grab the closer's role if the Mets trade Reed by Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, but he will still likely settle into the eighth inning when Familia makes an expected return from the disabled list in mid-August. For now, Ramos owners can retain the 30-year-old in hopes of receiving a handful of early-August saves. Meanwhile in Miami, Brad Ziegler (85 career saves) should soon return from the disabled list and take over ninth-inning duties. The veteran has struggled this season, but he showed the skills to help mixed-league owners when he posted a 2.25 ERA and 22 saves a year ago.