With the 2014 First-Year Player Draft in the rear view mirror, teams will now attempt to sign as many draft picks as they can to inject some young talent into their system. While the MLB Draft might not have much fanfare as the NFL Draft, young players and strong farm systems have become invaluable to teams as they attempt to maintain relevancy over an extended period of time or rebuild an organization that has not seen winning days for a while. Not all young players pan out, in fact most of them do not. But fans of teams that have been struggling for years need something to look forward to and keep them trucking through the tough times. Enter the New York Mets.
The Mets last made the postseason in 2006, when Endy Chavez made the miraculous catch to save the game (at the time) for the Mets. That was that game’s highlight until Yadier Molina hit a go-ahead home run in the top of the ninth inning. Carlos Beltran would then go onto strike out looking at a nasty Adam Wainwright (then a rookie, and a reliever) curveball that haunts Mets fans to this day. In all fairness to Beltran, he had a fantastic career with the Mets, and it is not at all fair that this is what fans remember the most about his tenure with the club. Since that time, the Mets have been somewhat of a lost cause.
The good news is that there is a simple solution to the disaster that has become the New York Mets, who currently sit at 31-38, seven games below .500 in fourth place in the NL East. Or at least, there was a simple solution.
Rewind back to 2011. This was the year that the Mets had a golden opportunity in front of their eyes. Jose Reyes was having a tremendous season, and he became the first and only Met in franchise history to win a batting title. That might have sounded glamorous then, but let’s face reality; who really cares about that now?
Not only that, but the Mets were clearly not going to be contending for a postseason spot that year. They finished 77-85, which was 25 games out of first and 13 games out of a wild card spot. Which brings back the question that I have asked time and time again; why did the Mets not trade Jose Reyes rather than let him walk as a free agent?
Fast forward a season later. RA Dickey has a career year and won the Cy Young Award, going 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, a league leading 233.2 innings as well as 230 strikeouts, which also led baseball. The Mets finished the season at 74-88, again not coming close to the postseason. The Mets made a brilliant decision over the off-season realizing that Dickey would never have that kind of season again and maximizing his trade value by acquiring right-handed pitcher Noah Syndergaard, catcher Travis d’Arnaud, outfielder Wuilmer Becerra and catcher John Buck from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Dickey as well as catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas. While d’Arnaud has struggled at the big-league level, he is still by far the most talented catcher the Mets have had in a long time. But the key piece to this trade is easily Syndergaard, who has a great chance to be a front-line starter for years to come. The Mets have since flipped John Buck (and Marlon Byrd, who was bought in on a minor league deal) and got back two useful pieces in right-handed pitcher Vic Black and second basemen Dilson Herrera in return from the Pirates. It is easy to say the Mets cashed in big time on this deal.
However, while this was a good thing the Mets did during that 2012 off-season, they made one big mistake. They re-signed David Wright instead of trading their face of the franchise.
I know, trading the face of the franchise is never an easy thing to do. But Wright was a free agent after the 2013 season before he agreed to an eight-year, $138 million extension to remain in Queens for the rest of his career. But when you look at this Mets team right now, it’s David Wright and everyone else. There is no talent on this roster, and it amazes me that their top offensive prospect, Wilmer Flores, cannot find a spot on a team with so many holes because he is limited to third base. If the Mets traded Wright and traded Reyes and got back a group of young players with considerable upside back during that 2011 season, (Wright would have had a higher trade value if they traded him them with two years before free agency,) then right now, in 2014, this Mets team could look a whole lot more promising then it does right now.
Yes of course not every prospect pans out as people think. But say the Mets got back four young players for both Reyes and Wright in separate trades. Figure the Mets got back two outfielders, a shortstop, a second basemen, a first basemen, and three pitchers. Remember these deals went down during 2011, so a lot of them will have likely played in the majors by now. Even if they have not proven much to this point, a roster full of young, promising players, perhaps with some more speed and athleticism, would be a lot more exciting than a roster with Chris Young, Bartolo Colon, Ruben Tejada, Lucas Duda, Anthony Recker/Taylor Teagarden, and Bobby Abreu. Also if the Mets did this back in 2011, they would likely not have had to have signed Young, Colon and even Curtis Granderson who is, as expected, struggling in his first year away from Yankee Stadium. The team would look completely different than it does right now, and there’s a good chance that it would be a lot more exciting team to watch, too.
The Mets had a chance to fix what has become a disaster of a situation in Queens. The team had three golden trade chips in their hands three years ago to try to turn this franchise around. Instead they traded one, let one walk and signed another to an extension, and an end to years of mediocrity does not seem to be coming anytime soon.