Sandy Alderson is never one to make explicit statements about his team or his plans. But with the Mets facing double-digit deficits in the both the N.L. East and wild card races, the reality of the situation is impossible to avoid.
As the Mets enter the second half of 2017, the playoffs are a long shot. And Alderson is keenly aware of that fact.
“You’re always looking to see what transpires over the next seven to 10 days,” Alderson said Friday afternoon at Citi Field. “But I think we’re at the point in the season where things would have to go exceedingly well for us to realistically change direction.”
Alderson was adamant, however, that the Mets are not in rebuilding mode.
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“This is not a teardown situation,” he said. “This is what I believe is sort of a pause button, and we’re going to have a lot of players that are free agents at the end of the year, a lot of payroll that will become available. And so we’re not looking to rebuild, quote on quote. We’re looking to make sure that we have a nucleus of a competitive team going into next year.”
When asked what he means by “exceedingly well,” Alderson said the term is a “relative proposition.” The Mets success only matters in the context of how other N.L. teams perform in the same timeframe.
Alderson added: “We’ll know it when we see it.”
The Mets are eight games under .500 and begin a 10-game home stand this weekend against the Rockies, who currently hold one of the two N.L. wild card spots. They’ll play four games against the Cardinals next week before welcoming the Athletics to Queens next weekend. The trade deadline is 4 p.m. on July 31.
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“Not surprisingly, we’ll be open to talking to clubs about various possibilities,” Alderson said. “Certainly the next week or 10 days will have a bearing on that, but I don’t think it will have a material impact on our thinking at this point. … We’ll know a little more at the end of this three-day period. It’ll be incremental, but nonetheless will inform what we do over the next two weeks.”
At this stage, Alderson will be most willing to deal veterans on expiring contracts.
Lucas Duda ($ 7.25 million in 2017), Neil Walker ($ 17.2 million), Addison Reed ($ 7.75 million), Jay Bruce ($ 13 million), Curtis Granderson ($ 15 million) and Fernando Salas ($ 3 million) will all be free agents this offseason, and a number of those players could pique the interest of teams in the playoff hunt.
The other option for Alderson would be dealing players under more firm control in exchange for a haul. The White Sox made that type of move when they traded Jose Quintana to the crosstown-rival Cubs earlier this week.
Quintana is playing under one of the most team-friendly contracts in all of baseball, and the Cubs paid the price, forking over top outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez along with the three other minor-leaguers.
The Mets have similar players to Quintana. Jacob deGrom is under control through 2020. Zack Wheeler is under control through 2019. Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz are both under control through 2021. With 2017 becoming a lost season, the organization could significantly enhance its farm system by trading one of those hurlers in a market starving for quality starting pitching.
Alderson, though, would only make a deal of that magnitude under perfect circumstances. He said he hasn’t been approached with any such trade at this juncture.
“I think that’s a possibility, only because you never quite know what’s going to be presented,” Alderson said. “But I’d say that sort of trade is exceedingly unlikely.”
When deGrom was specifically mentioned as a possible trade piece, Alderson grew somewhat agitated before announcing the Mets are not rebuilding.
“All right, let’s take Jake deGrom. What do we do without Jake deGrom next year?” he said. “While we wouldn’t completely discount any possibility of a trade of that type because who knows what might be presented, I don’t think enough would be presented for us to bite on that. And again, a lot of it has to do with how we view this team as we start thinking about next year as well as the end of this season.”
Duda remains an interesting candidate, largely because the Yankees are looking to upgrade at first base. The Mets and Yankees have mostly avoided significant trades in their history, but Alderson isn’t counting out a deal with his neighbor in The Bronx.
“I don’t think it’s institutionalized,” Alderson said of a Yankees-Mets trade. “It’s certainly something I would consider.”
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