With the waiver deadline coming up, the Mets can change the landscape of the playoff picture. The Cleveland Indians could be interested in some of their players.
To whom it may concern within the front office of the New York Mets:
I understand how difficult it can be to accept defeat. To admit that, despite your best-laid plans, things just haven’t turned out the way you thought or hoped they would.
I realize that, after a 2015 World Series appearance that looked as though it would be the first of several, you may need a moment to gather your bearings amid the whirlwind that has sent you spiraling into the bottom of the National League.
I also recognize just how much of what has happened has been completely out of your control. It’s not your fault that Matt Harvey went off the rails. You can’t help that Noah Syndergaard, as elite as he is at the top of his game, has made just 23 starts in the last two seasons. You could not have prepared for the possibility that Yoenis Cespedes would play in just 119 games during the first two years of the four-year contract you signed him to.
But as I think about how the last few years have unfolded for your franchise, I can’t help but be puzzled as to how you’ve played the cards you’ve been dealt.
Fresh off a 2017 campaign that yielded a 70-92 record, you made no significant offseason acquisitions to improve your roster or alleviate any of the pressure felt by your pitching staff. You stood idly by while Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, all of whom could have filled a positional need for you, signed with other teams.
And you know what? I’ll even grant you some leeway on that front. Perhaps the $80 million guaranteed to Cain or the $144 million being paid to Hosmer were a little steep for your liking.
After all, the teams that did nab them up had a bit more payroll flexibility. Nevertheless, the opportunities were there, two years removed from a World Series and just one year removed from your last playoff appearance, and you chose to acquire aging stop-gaps like Adrian Gonzalez, Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce instead of giving your club a real shot at contention.
Then came the 2018 trade deadline, which arrived smack dab in the middle of what has been an absolutely disastrous season. Your franchise left fielder had been declared done for the remainder of the year. The ace of your staff, arguably the best pitcher in the National League, had a losing record despite a staggering 1.82 ERA as of his last start before July 31. As a team, you were 44-60 on the year.
You addressed this by trading Jeurys Familia–a valuable trade asset in a market where quality bullpen arms often command a premium return–for a middle-of-the-road third base prospect and a 26-year-old pitcher who had made just seven appearances at the Major League level to that point in his career. You did this, of course, 10 days before the deadline itself, evidently convinced no better offer would surface in the final week. Outside of a trade that sent Asdrubal Cabrera to the Philadelphia Phillies, you did nothing else.
You were well out of the postseason hunt months before that. You had all the time in the world to evaluate your situation, to gauge what the future might hold for your team. And again, you more or less stood pat.
With that in mind, I have a few questions to ask you.
The first is simple, though the answer may be anything but: How do you really see the next few years unfolding for your baseball team? I ask this because you find yourselves in the unenviable position of playing in the rapidly-improving National League East.
What about the Phillies? Does your roster, as currently constructed, have what it takes to keep up with them over the course of a 162-game playoff hunt? Philadelphia is just as loaded with young talent as Atlanta, and they have an October-ready starting rotation to boot.
Do you even think you are on the same playing field as the Washington Nationals, who–whether Bryce Harper sticks around or not–are armed to the teeth with Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto and Victor Robles for years to come?
If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then I have to ask a follow-up question: What are you going to do to make it happen?
Among the young ballplayers currently ranked inside MLB.com’s top 100 prospects, only four of them reside in your farm system, and none are ranked higher than 59th. Your contention window is tied directly to the tenures of Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, and you have very little help coming up from the minors in order to capitalize on it.
Without a promising farm system, the only other avenue at your disposal is a strong offseason heading into 2019. I find it hard to believe you’re going to be in the thick of the frenzy surrounding Harper or Manny Machado. In any case, you’ll need to make quite a splash this winter if you hope to keep up with your divisional rivals. And oh, by the way, all three of those rivals have a pretty reasonable shot at landing one of Harper or Machado.
If you are unable to fortify your roster heading into 2019 to such an extent that you become a viable contender in one of the tougher divisions in baseball (and it’s unlikely that you are), you risk wasting another year of having Syndergaard and deGrom on your team.
Which brings me to a possibility you seem reluctant to consider: maybe, even with those two in the fold, the mountain ahead of you is insurmountable. Maybe you can‘t catch up to the Phillies or the Braves. Maybe the Nationals, admittedly in the middle of a rough season, are just better set for the future than you are.
Maybe it’s unwise to spend the prime of Jacob deGrom’s career battling for third or fourth place in your division.
You missed your chance at this epiphany in July, but it’s not too late to atone. You have two weeks to prey on the hopes of teams with World Series aspirations, and although blockbuster trades like the one I’m about to ask you for are incredibly rare in August, the decision ultimately lies in your hands.
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I’ve referenced him a few times now, perhaps foreshadowing the purpose of this long-winded letter, but you probably already knew anyway that the player I want you to move is deGrom.
You place him on waivers, and due to his low salary and team-friendly service time, at least a dozen teams probably put in a claim on him. I’m writing to you on behalf of one of those teams in particular, however: the Cleveland Indians.
You surely know by now we just lost our Cy Young candidate Trevor Bauer to the DL for an indeterminate time frame. Our manager says “I hope” Bauer will return this season, but I’ll be honest, that doesn’t sound very promising.
If he does not make a complete recovery in 2018, my Indians will be missing a significant piece of their puzzle for the most important part of the year.
Of course, even without Bauer, some may say the Indians can still make a deep postseason run on the backs of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevinger. Heck, we almost pulled off an improbable run in 2016 in an eerily similar situation. Why can’t it happen again? Well, to be frank, I don’t want to leave anything to chance this time around.
I’m no doomsayer. I believe firmly in the words of the wise legend who once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” But I’ve never seen the Indians win a World Series. Neither have most fans who are alive today, many of whom have been around for a heck of a lot longer than me. I’m willing to pay a small fortune in return for a chance at changing that.
And so I’ve decided to put on my (wishful) thinking cap and hope for the one-in-ten-billion chance that somehow, some way, Jacob deGrom starts Game 2 of the ALDS for the Tribe. If by some miracle he sneaks past the Braves and Milwaukee Brewers in waivers, we’ll be waiting to claim him.
If we get that chance, don’t pull him back. Instead, get on the phone with Chris Antonetti. Ask him about Triston McKenzie, our top pitching prospect with a front-of-the-rotation ceiling. Ask him about Yu-Cheng Chang, our power-hitting young shortstop who has the ability to play elsewhere in the infield if you’re content going forward with Amed Rosario at the six. Inquire as to the potential of Will Benson, our towering 20-year-old outfielder who could make a name for himself as your cleanup hitter in a few years.
With so many of our core players under control well beyond 2018, particularly Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, I’m willing to mortgage a sizable portion of our distant future in return for your best player–for a chance to win the World Series.
I realize the nearly unprecedented gravity of what I’m hoping for here. Deals like this simply don’t happen in the middle of August. But I’m also hoping to watch 25 Cleveland Indians mob each other in celebration after the final baseball game of the season. That hasn’t happened since 1948, so I guess you could say that’d be pretty unprecedented as well.