Top of the Order: Here’s What a Mets Teardown Could Look Like

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Welcome back to Top of the Order, where every Tuesday and Friday I’ll be starting your baseball day with some news, notes, and thoughts about the game we love.

The Mets entered this season caught in the middle of contending and rebuilding, and that was by design. Their strategy during the offseason was to assemble veteran players on short-term contracts who could either help the team make a wild-card push if things went well or flip them at the deadline if the club floundered. And, oh boy, floundered is putting it mildly. After sitting a game above .500 at the end of April, the Mets have posted an abysmal 8-19 (.296) record in May. I didn’t expect to be declaring them as hard sellers on May 31, but that’s pretty much their only viable option at this point unless they turn things around quickly. Shortstop Francisco Lindor acknowledged as much after Wednesday night’s game.

“The front office is going to make decisions no matter what. Whether it’s to add or subtract, whether it’s to focus on the next season or focus on August and September, they’ve got to make decisions,” Lindor said. “We don’t have 100-plus games for that moment, but we do have time to make sure we are above water. I’ve always said stay above the water. Before the All-Star break and before the trade deadline, you’ve got to stay above the water. You can’t have the water be nose deep. I’m not a good swimmer. We’ve got to make sure — we’ve got to find ways to get the water to at least our shoulders because [otherwise] that’s when the decisions come in, [and] it’s the one we don’t want.”

If, indeed, the verdict from the front office is not the one Lindor wants, these are some of the players the Mets could trade away by the July 30 deadline.

The Shiniest Rental

Pete Alonso is more Mercedes-Benz than Rolls-Royce these days, as I’m pretty convinced his best days are already behind him at age 29. He has a 121 wRC+ since the beginning of last season, down from 137 he posted over his first four years. A righty first base-only is a risky proposition in free agency, and his lack of positional flexibility will dampen his trade value as well. He’s undoubtedly an impact bat who lengthens any lineup, and despite his dip in production, he’s still one of the game’s great home run hitters. The thing is, he’s no longer in that upper echelon of dangerous, all-around hitters.

For that reason, along with the fact that he’s on an expiring contract, the Mets shouldn’t expect a package of multiple top prospects for him. I think he’ll get a return closer to the one the Orioles got for Trey Mancini two deadlines ago. The Mets could, of course, make a trade more enticing by paying down some of Alonso’s salary. As it stands, whichever team acquires him will have to pay about $6.8 million for the remainder of the season.

Further complicating things is that the best contenders all have fairly capable first basemen. Every team currently in playoff a position is getting at least league-average offensive production from that position. From my vantage point, Alonso would fit best with the Mariners or Rays, teams that both lack power production and are not getting much from their DHs at the moment: Entering play Thursday, Seattle’s DH wRC+ was of 79; Tampa Bay’s was 85.

Another factor to consider: The Mets may decide that any potential trade return would be less valuable to them than the draft pick compensation they’d receive if Alonso were to decline their qualifying offer. This seems unlikely, though, because the Mets cleared the last luxury tax line last year, so the pick they’d get if Alonso walks in free agency would come after the fourth round of the 2025 draft. If the Mets can’t get a prospect or two worth more than a fourth-round pick for Alonso, they should hold onto him and use those extra two months to work out an extension or try to re-sign him after the season.

Everyone Needs Pitching

The Mets were smart to load up on rental pitching in hopes that those hurlers would bounce back enough to either (a) help lead the Mets to the playoffs or (b) be worth something to someone else in a trade. So far, pretty good results there!

Luis Severino (on a one-year deal worth $13 million) still isn’t dominating as he was back in his peak years of 2017 and 2018, with his strikeout rate up only a point-and-a-half from his horrendous final act with the Yankees last year. But his newfound sinker — now representing 19% of his pitches, per Statcast (3% last year) — has served to deaden the contact against him considerably, with the average exit velocity he’s allowing down 3 mph; his groundball rate is up nearly nine points. The lack of swing-and-miss, and his corresponding reliance on contact, makes him more of a mid-rotation arm than a frontline starter, but he’d clearly be an upgrade for just about any team looking for starting pitching.

Sean Manaea is in a more complicated situation, as his two-year, $28 million contract allows him to opt out after this season. It’s certainly trending that way with a 3.16 ERA (3.46 FIP, 4.20 xERA) in 10 starts, making it an almost certainty that he’ll test free agency this offseason so long as he stays healthy. But that’s a double-edged sword: Teams may be scared to acquire him in the event that he gets hurt or underperforms and they’re saddled with his $13.5 million salary for 2025, and the Mets may market him as a player with over a year of club control left and ask for a more valuable return as a result.

Throwing Darts

I don’t think any of these players would return much in a trade, but considering the Mets acquired a guy who’s now a top-100 prospect for Tommy Pham at last year’s deadline, it’s always worth crossing your fingers and hoping that your pro scouting department comes back with under-the-radar names that you can add to the organization:

• Putting J.D. Martinez in this section feels a little rude given his pedigree, but he’s a DH-only who’s popped just four homers in 30 games (including the go-ahead blast in last night’s 3-2 win over the Diamondbacks) and is striking out a third of the time. The same factors that caused Martinez to sign at the very end of spring training will work against his trade value, too.

Harrison Bader has played like an ideal bottom-of-the-order bat, with an above-average wRC+, and he actually has reverse splits this year that belie his career norms. As usual, he’s done his best work in the field, with 2 DRS and 4 OAA in center. At absolute minimum, he’d be a perfect fourth outfielder for a contender.

Adam Ottavino has hit a rough patch, with his ERA soaring from 2.95 to 5.48 over the course of just four appearances in which he allowed seven runs across three innings. Still, he’s struck out opponents at his highest rate since his breakout 2018 season, and his FIP (3.55) and xERA (3.07) portend better results to come.

Jose Quintana isn’t the contact-suppression king he was last year; he’s already allowed nine homers in 58.2 innings after surrendering just five in 75.2 innings last season. But the guy takes the ball every fifth day, and there’ll be a team willing to give up a lottery-ticket prospect for him, especially if the Mets pay down some of his $4 million-plus that he’ll be owed after the deadline.

Omar Narváez and Tomás Nido haven’t hit well, and one of them will be DFA’d well before the trade deadline, whenever Francisco Alvarez comes back. The other could, I suppose, be moved in July, though catchers are rarely moved at the deadline.

Cross Them Off The List

Not every rental can always be traded, of course, no matter how extensive the rebuild is. Brooks Raley would’ve been a hot commodity at the deadline, but he’ll be out until sometime next season after undergoing Tommy John surgery this week.

The Mets also have long-term contracts for Lindor, Brandon Nimmo, Edwin Díaz, and Jeff McNeil on the books, but I’d be extremely surprised if any of them are moved. All four are underperforming (and Díaz is currently on the IL with a shoulder impingement), though I still think Lindor, Nimmo, and Díaz can be key parts of the next good Mets team.

Even if the initial reaction to the trades are underwhelming — rentals just don’t return all that much — this should be a formative deadline for the Mets. I don’t expect them to get a Luisangel Acuña– or Drew Gilbert-level prospect, nor do I see their moves signaling a hard reset for 2025 or an expansive rebuild. But as David Stearns and Steve Cohen look to recalibrate and lay a foundation for the future, they’re certainly not going to just sit on their hands and hold onto anybody if the right deal is there.

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20 days ago

Get some guys that can catch the ball on the infield.

20 days ago
Reply to  Michael

who can also hit the ball out of the infield

David Klein
20 days ago
Reply to  Dmjn53

Brett Baty openly weeps.