A season that opened with World Series aspirations has quickly become a nightmare. The New York Mets' late-season woes from a year ago returned early this season, and with the team's struggles, the MLB odds for a Mets comeback are unfortunately low. This challenging scenario threatens to make New York sellers instead of buyers at Major League Baseball's trade deadline on August 1.
The Mets finished the month of June with an ugly 7-19 record. Although a six-game winning streak in early July offered hope that veteran skipper Buck Showalter's squad could get back into the playoff picture, the Metsies ended the first half six games below .500 after a pair of setbacks to the San Diego Padres.
Showalter said recently that players understand that time is running out regarding climbing back into the playoff race.
"Their strengths, shortcomings are right up on this huge board every night for the whole world to see," said Showalter. "I've said it before, you go out there every night with the idea that something could happen, that there's this ridicule and poking fun at them. Even our own people sometimes do it. So it's tough, but they understand it. They understand it. They know it, and I try hard not to be Captain Obvious to them."
New York finished the 2022 campaign with 101 victories, the second most wins in a season in franchise history. However, the Mets posted an underwhelming 15-11 mark in September and became the first 100-plus-win team to fail to reach the Division Series since it was implemented in 1995. Watching the team struggle in 2023 has not been easy for Mets owner Steve Cohen.
"It's been incredibly frustrating. I watch every game. I see what's going on…But here we are, and hopefully, we can right the ship," Cohen said recently in a rare press conference. "If we don't get better, we have decisions to make at the trade deadline. It's on the players," added Cohen.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, if the front office decides to start shopping players, co-aces Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, along with first baseman Pete Alonso and shortstop Francisco Lindor aren't going anywhere. But if Cohen decides the season is lost and opts to sell players, Scherzer could be willing to waive his no-trade clause.
"Several industry sources have suggested he would waive it for the right situation. Regarding the size of Scherzer's contract, the Mets could use Cohen's riches to pay it down in hopes of landing a premium prospect in return," per MLB.com's Anthony DiComo.
The eight-time All-Star has posted an 8-3 record and a 3.87 ERA in 14 starts this season. Although the 38-year-old flame thrower is not the dominant ace who won back-to-back Cy Young Awards with the Washington Nationals, he remains a solid front-of-the-rotation hurler. Scherzer has tallied 25 strikeouts over his last 20 innings while surrendering two runs or fewer.
The 6-foot-3 right-hander would be a valuable commodity on the open market that could land a top prospect. But Cohen would have to dig in his deep pockets to secure a trade by eating part of Scherzer's $43.34 million salary.
"I'm preparing all contingencies." said Cohen, who also said he would be willing to pay down salaries to enhance returns, as he did in the trade of Eduardo Escobar, explaining, "I already consider that money spent."
The Mets traded veteran third baseman Eduardo Escobar to the Los Angeles Angels last month for minor-league right-handers Coleman Crow and Landon Marceaux. The switch-hitter was batting .236 with four home runs this season but had become a part-time player after losing his third base job to top prospect Brett Baty.
While the chances of New York dealing Alonso is slim, the power-hitting corner infielder has the highest trade value of any player on the roster. A homegrown product, the three-time All-Star became the second-fastest player to hit 150 home runs and has 172 long balls in 612 games in a Mets uniform.
2022 National League batting champion Jeff McNeil is an intriguing trade option for general manager Billy Eppler. The second baseman hit .326 last year to become the first Met to lead the big leagues in batting average. But he is hitting just .253 this season and could fetch much-needed pitching help if a team believes McNeil can rebound from a subpar first half of the season.
Right-handed starter Carlos Carrasco joins outfielders Mark Canha and Tommy Phan and relief pitchers Brooks Raley and David Robertson as potential trade candidates if New York opens the second half of the season slowly.
Carrasco has struggled at Citi Field this season with a 1-1 record and a hefty 7.23 ERA over 23.2 frames. However, the 36-year-old has been effective in seven road starts with a 2-2 card and a 3.86 ERA in 37.1 innings.
Canha has belted 19 long balls over two seasons in New York. The 34-year-old can play multiple outfield positions and would be an excellent addition to playoff-contending teams seeking to upgrade their bench.
Pham has become one of the team's most consistent bats, with a .277 batting average, 24 extra-base hits, and 34 RBIs. The 35-year-old journeyman has a budget-friendly contract, making him an appealing trade target for contenders seeking a right-handed bat and reserve outfielder.
Raley is having another solid campaign with a 1-1 mark and a 2.30 ERA. The veteran southpaw has fanned 34 hitters in 31.1 innings while posting 17 holds and one save.
Robertson is enjoying a stellar season with a 2-2 record, 13 saves, and a 2.06 ERA in 36 appearances. The 38-year-old would be a valuable addition to a team like the Texas Rangers, who are shopping for bullpen help to make a push for the postseason.
The Mets can still salvage their season with a surge after the All-Star break. But if the team falls 10 games under .500, look for Cohen and Eppler to begin shopping players to contending teams.