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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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The Real Future

The National League East is a mess. In every other division, run differential is a pretty fair predictor of W-L record. In the NL East, the run differentials by place in the standings currently look like this: 0, +39, -5, -1, -40. The 0 squad is the Braves, in first place by the thinnest of margins over the Nats, who run differential would predict would have a substantial lead. The Marlins are at -5, about the same as the -1 Mets, but neither team is as far ahead of the crummy Phillies as you’d expect.

Statistics, obviously, aren’t destiny: The Mets aren’t 41-41 but 37-45, just as the Nats aren’t 11 games over .500.

But it’s asking a lot to imagine destinies that fly in the face of the stats.

Which brings us, in a roundabout way to the 2014 Mets. They lost today because a) Bartolo Colon had one of his off-days when his location wasn’t great and his fastball command wasn’t sharp, making him very hittable; and b) because they went limp when looking at a runner on third and less than two out. Daniel Murphy, Juan Lagares, and Ruben Tejada all failed in that spot today; convert those runs, and perhaps the team’s ninth-inning rally results in extra innings instead of lipstick smeared on a pig. (Believe it or not, the Mets are in the middle of the baseball pack when it comes to converting such situations — it only seems like they’re 0 for the last 74,000.)

For all their problems, though, the Mets’ mess of a division makes it difficult to abandon hope of a ’73-style run from worst (or near enough) to first.

But we should. Because trying to thread that needle is a distraction from the real business at hand.

The Mets have solid starting pitching — a surplus of it, in fact. Their bullpen has gone from a horror show to a strength, with Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, Josh Edgin and Vic Black all looking solid. (And Bobby Parnell presumably returning next year.) But the offense remains painfully thin: Left field, shortstop, first base and catcher are all question marks if you’re feeling kind and holes if you’re not.

Above all else, the Mets need more potent bats. Help is potentially coming with Kevin Plawecki and Brandon Nimmo and Dilson Herrera, but it’s coming next year at the earliest, and even if those players pan out it will take patience to develop them — witness Lucas Duda and Wilmer Flores and Travis d’Arnaud.

To me, it’s clear that the Mets should deal some of their surplus of starters: Next spring, the Mets can expect to have Matt Harvey, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, Zack Wheeler, Colon, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero as starting candidates along with Familia and Mejia. I think the last two have shown they should stay in the bullpen, but that’s still eight guys for five spots. You don’t want to deal away all your depth — there will be guys who need more time and injuries — but the Mets can still make a deal.

What kind of deal? That’s up for debate, and potential partners would have something to say about it too of course. But I’d listen if the Mets were asked about Colon, Niese, Montero or Daisuke Matsuzaka — and absent a charge into first place, I wouldn’t look at the standings before having that conversation.

The same goes for Daniel Murphy. I love Murph, invisible ninja fantasies and all. If the Mets signed him to a long-range deal that would be great. But if they think they can get more value by moving him, they should do that. (Sandy Alderson’s free-agent picks have been hit and miss, but his record as a summer trader has been pretty good.) And again, if someone has an offer for Murph, the Mets should consider it without wondering why the Nats keep sputtering or whether luck will naturally bring them up four or five games in the standings.

The starters are here. The relievers have emerged. But the bats are still missing. The Mets’ top priority should be finding them, not daydreaming about what might be if everything breaks right. Because it probably won’t. Fantasies are fun; building good realities is better.

31 comments to The Real Future

  • Jeff Kosnett

    How can they get more value for Murphy by trading him? He has 101 hits and it’s still not the end of June. I think that’s about one-third of the knocks the whole team has. He should be an all-star. Give him four or five years and shut up and watch him hit.

  • I like Murph. If the Mets think the best scenario for the team is to extend him, that’s great. I’d applaud.

    But Murph’s gonna get a big bump in arbitration and then be a free agent, possibly making more dollars than the Mets will want to pay him over more years than they’ll want to give him. So if you can trade him in July for players that you think will deliver more on-field value while being cost-controlled for more years, do that. Who cares if it means we win 71 in 2014 instead of 74?

  • 9th string

    Since offense seems so difficult to depend on, probably best not to move what’s working. I don’t think they would improve their situation by trading Murphy, they would break even on WAR at best. I would love to move him over to 1st and bring a solid hitting 2nd baseman, then go to work on LF and SS. If they’re serious about moving pitching, they need a can’t miss guy. Too many guesses by Sandy – he needs to pull a no-brainer, or don’t bother. BTW – could we really have had Nelson Cruz? Sigh.

    • Eh, nobody thought Cruz would do what he’s done and nobody was willing to pay him what it looked like he’d cost. Good on the O’s, but I give the Mets a pass there.

    • vertigone

      “BTW – could we really have had Nelson Cruz? Sigh”

      We certainly could not have had him for the 1yr/8mil contract he signed with Baltimore. He signed with them to put up big #’s in a hitter’s park (like Texas) to get a big contract this offseason. He’s 34 years old and will command big bucks. I hope the Mets keep away. They need stars in their 20’s, not mid 30’s.

  • Bruce Grossberg

    I am only in favor of trading the pitching to get back hitters who can help the Mets in 2014 or 2015. I am not interested in hearing about how good the 2019 Mets will be after we trade Jonathan Niese or Dillon Gee for the best hitter in the NY-Penn league (or whatever they call it now). You want the Mets in a situation where the hitters and the pitchers are in their prime at the same time. I have no idea whether the Mets front office is capable of that sort of fine tuning. I think you guys run the best sports blog there is, but When I read a post like yours today, I’m always reminded of the Indians teams of the 70s and the 80s, and despite their reputation, the Moneyball A’s. They were always churning the club over, making these deals that “insiders” liked, keeping their potential high, their payroll low, and always pushing the day when they would be a real contending team far, far into the future. If you have a chance to grab a pennant, you owe it to your fans (and even to yourself) to take it. You never know when the chance will come again. Ask the Cubs.

    • Agree — if the Mets move pitching pieces and/or Murphy, the return should include guys who are ready to help by 2015.

    • Lenny65

      I couldn’t agree more. The Mets are in dire need of a LF and a SS right now, not three years from now. It’s not all they need but it’s the logical starting point. IMO the fan base will be pretty demoralized if they start dealing away pitchers for unknown farmhands who won’t contribute in the very near future. I realize that finding big league LFs and shortstops is easier said than done but if they can’t fill those blatant needs then don’t just deal the pitching for the sake of it. Too many good pitchers is a problem that doesn’t exist.

    • 9th string catcher

      Well put. Joe D used to decry the Beltran trade vociferously because there still was a chance for the Mets to make a run (albeit very unlikely). Yes, we got a good pitcher in the deal, but to what end? 3 losing seasons (and counting), and more to come from the looks of things.

  • Kevin Walsh

    Murphy for more pitching prospects? The Mets always trade away effective bats and bring in bad bats.

  • Anybody but Murphy, Jason. He can hit in Citi! For me it’s as simple as that. Pitchers, sure. But I want to see Murph rippin’ it up in the post season as a Met…someday.

    • I love Murph. But he may soon command more money and years as a FA than the Mets would want to pay, and potentially get more cost-controlled value back than he offered in the first place.

      If the Mets return to the postseason, you and I will love whoever got them there, whether it’s Dilson Herrera and Wilmer Flores or Mike Olt and some guy we’ve never heard of.

      • dak442

        Maybe the Mets shouldn’t sweat paying more than they might want to pay for their best hitter. What are we, Kansas City? 2B is one of the few positions where we can set it and forget it; for another 6 years, probably. Enough of this small-market mentality.

        Am I the only one who expects absolutely nothing from Flores?

        • I was going to ask if you wanted to spend $36 million on Murph’s age 32/33/34 seasons. But you want him for six years?

          • dak442

            I didn’t realize he is 29 already. Man, time flies when you’re not having any baseball fun.

            If he is a free agent in 2016 (I guess before the season), I’d offer 5 years/$60M. Wonder if that gets it done. I’d be happier with that than Wilmer Flores hitting .210 there.

  • Lenny65

    The way I see it is Murphy’s a known proven commodity and one of the few actual ML bats the Mets have. Dealing him away for prospects, unless they’re very close to being ready, would just create another big hole they’d need to fill. Which we all know they won’t. I could see it more if his presence was holding another young player back, but it’s not.

  • BlackCountryMet

    I’ve been listening to a few podcasts lately where this has been discussed. I agree, it seems likely that we will have a surplus of pitching but i think we need to be careful. A couple of injuries,a prospect that doesn’t pan out and all of a sudden the pitching isn’t as well stocked. I’ve no idea what we could bring back but i’d be more inclined, with the development of Plawecki, to trade Recker as present. I’m also not that sure that Murph would bring the offense that we need, as if he’s the Murph he is with us, why would anyone else want him. I would however, trade Bartolo at the deadline

    • Yes, but a surplus is a surplus, and young big-league starters are a very valuable commodity.

      Trade, say, Niese and Colon and you’ve got a rotation of Harvey, Wheeler, Gee, deGrom, Syndergaard, with Familia and Mejia in the pen and Montero and Hefner for depth. Plus you’ve got Matz potentially ready next summer, and of course you’ll sign a vet or two to a minor-league deal in the spring. Or change the names around for a slightly different plan.

      You’ve got to trade value to get value. Niese/Colon have value. Murph has a lot of value. Recker’s a backup catcher who can’t make contact.

  • Dave

    Presumably rebuilding has a goal of eventually being rebuilt. Trading Murphy, Niese or Gee would have to bring in a major league player of comparable credentials, otherwise they’re just kicking the can down the road.

    Alderson recently said something about trading young pitchers not being the plan. All I can hope is that such a statement is a tactic to drive their price up. Look at players the Mets have acquired over the years by being willing to trade one or more young arms – Clendenon, Hernandez, Carter, Leiter, Piazza, Ojeda, Olerud, Santana, Delgado…even the craziest Mets fan has never said “yeah, Piazza was good I guess, but what if we had kept Ed Yarnell?”

    Sandy, there’s no such thing as too much pitching, but there is such a thing as too many pitchers. Unless you’re going to a 7 or 8 man rotation next year, pull the damn trigger already and get the next guys to be added to the above list.

  • Tim H

    I would just like to remind Mets fans that today (June 30) marks the 70th birthday (!) of the wonderful Ron Swoboda. A few years ago I attained some notoriety for allowing my 8mm home movie clip of Ron’s incredible catch during Game 4 of the 1969 World Series to be shown on the MLB Network. The best part for me was getting to meet and stay in touch with Ron and finding out what I had always hoped was true — he’s a really nice and baseball-savvy guy.

    All the best to Ron Swoboda on his special day!

    Tim Hanley
    New York City

    • Will in Central NJ

      Thanks for the reminder, Tim. It brings to mind my own memory of meeting “Rocky”. I sort of regret that, when I met Mr. Swoboda at a 2006 Mets Fan Fest meet-n-greet, I inadvertently brought tears to his eyes.

      I had asked a question asking if everything was well with him and his family in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which (as many know) pummeled Ron’s hometown of New Orleans quite severely in August 2005. He nodded, then looked down and away. I felt bad for having unintentionally touched a still-sensitive matter.

      Best wishes to Ron Swoboda….a gentleman, a champion and a Met in our hearts and minds forever.

  • Michael G.

    Hey Jason — Shouldn’t we keep Niese for his left-handedness?

    • You can shuffle the surplus as you like. I’d deal Niese because his left-handedness and contract mean he’d likely bring back the most value. Plus I dislike him, though his recent work and more mature approach are winning me over.

  • GaryMac

    I have heard a lot of ideas that include trading Daniel Murphy. What I have not heard was who anyone thinks we could get back for him. Sure, if we could get a top hitter back i would be all for it. However, what team would trade a top hitter for Murphy? That leaves us looking at prospects or projects. Neither of which i think is what the Mets need. We have a proven .300ish hitter that can go gap to gap and hit a ton of doubles. While the appeal of a power hitter sounds great we need to abandon that plan cause it has not worked (Bay, Granderson, Young, etc.) What we need are high average, contact hitters. Wouldnt it be nice to have an all-star SS with speed that hits gap to gap? Oh right we had one and let him walk in Free Agency. Pay the guys that have proven they can do it their money and move on to fill in the holes. All we would do by trading Murphy is creating another hole. Nothing that Wilmer Flores has done has proven to me that he can replace Murphy. If we deal Murphy in 3 years we will be looking for a 2nd baseman like we are looking for a SS now.

    • A lot to address here….

      1) You’re not going to get a top current MLB hitter, but that’s not the objective. I’d want someone who can help in 2015, from another team’s surplus. You don’t know who that’s going to be until you start having conversations.

      2) Granderson is doing fine after a slow start.

      3) Would you have given Jose Reyes $106 million over five years? Do you think the Madoff-saddled Mets could have done that at the time? The idea that the Mets let Reyes walk is highly revisionist history.

      4) The idea of trading Murphy is you do it if you can fill multiple holes. If you think there’s more value keeping him, then do that — sign him to a longer-term deal that buys out the arb year. But if you don’t want to go down that path, now’s the most opportune time to trade him.

      5) We’re not dealing Murph in three years. He’s arb-eligible this winter and a free agent after next season. That’s why there’s so much conversation about a potential deal now.

      6) Wilmer Flores has never had a chance to play everyday. You can’t say anything either way about him.

      7) Again, you trade Murph if you’re filling more holes than you’re creating. Plus the Mets do have some talented middle infielders a year or two away, led by second baseman Dilson Herrera.

      As I’ve said multiple times, I like Murph. I’d be happy if the Mets made him their long-term second baseman. But these are realities of running a baseball team in 2014 — you look at guys’ contract status, figure out what they’re going to cost in the future, and if you can flip them to another team for what you think will be more on-field value than you’re giving up, you find the best time to do that. Which for Murph is now.

      • GaryMac

        i agree with alot of your points, if the mets are blown away by an offer take it, nobody on this team is worth not listening to offers on. but i just dont see them getting the return on what Murph is worth to them. If its a “Cant miss prospect” go for it. i just think trading him is riskier than keeping him. Sign him to a long term deal (5 year $45M) this off season and look to fill holes by trading pitching where we have a surplus. Flores gives me flashbacks of F-Mart and Lastings Milledge and Herrera is still a crap shoot at 20 years old. Trading a proven solid hitter that can play in NY isnt my favorite way to build the team.

  • RoundRockmets

    100% agreed with Jason. Anyone and everyone is trade bait if it makes the team better. Period.