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OK, playtime is over.
It’s time for the Mets to make TBD DOA.
No doubts remain over where the Mets must focus their trade-deadline energy, right? Even if the dream, Max Scherzer, now looks far more like a fantasy.
The NL East leaders hope Tuesday night’s 12-5 blowout loss to the Braves at Citi Field marked the farewell to fill-in starting pitchers, as Jerad Eickhoff, drawing his fourth such assignment, got torched to the tune of 10 earned runs over 3 ¹/₃ innings, lifting his 2021 ERA to 8.69.
The 31-year-old, twice designated for assignment by the Mets this season (including just last week), appears headed for the undesired hat trick, as Carlos Carrasco, who came with Francisco Lindor from Cleveland in January, finally should make his Mets debut Friday night, hours after the trade deadline arrives, against the Reds.
“Looking ahead, there’s no blank spot right now,” Luis Rojas said of his starting rotation. “There’s names on each day. There’s no TBDs.”
Combined with newcomer Rich Hill, the Mets will have five healthy, full-time starting pitchers, a phenomenon they have experienced only sporadically this fakakta campaign. Yet even with Jacob deGrom on the mend from the injured list, the Mets surely will require more help in this department to reach the finish line. They know this.
Can they nab Michael Pineda or, even better, Jose Berrios from the Twins? Must they settle for the likes of the Angels’ Alex Cobb or Andrew Heaney?
Can they find another surprise option like Hill, whom the contending Rays gave up, only with a higher ceiling? The beauty and bafflement of trade-deadline week is you can bluff and posture all you want until the expiring clock tells the truth of your intentions.
Scherzer very likely will not be a Met, not after the Nationals told the Mets not to bother with trade discussions because the three-time Cy Young Award winner, who can control his destiny by virtue of being a 10-and-5 player (10 years in the majors, five or more with his current club), purportedly doesn’t want to join them (nor do the Nats seem very excited to hand over Scherzer to an NL East rival). Only the deadline, however, can formalize that fate.
It’s a tough row for the Mets (53-46) to hoe, yet if Tuesday’s result — which kept the losing Phillies (50-50) 3 ½ games behind them in the NL East as the Braves (50-51) closed within four games — brought any good news, it offered further evidence that their offense doesn’t require a major upgrade.
Jeff McNeil extended his hitting streak to 14 games, homering off Atlanta starter (and winner) Charlie Morton and adding a ninth-inning ground-rule double. Pete Alonso singled and doubled. In all, the Mets put together 10 hits and two walks.
“We always have to be exploring ways to improve the club. But as I’ve said before, we have a lot of good position players,” Mets acting general manager Zack Scott said on Monday. “We’re mindful of, if we add a player, it’s a zero-sum game here. We’re taking away at-bats from someone else. We need to make sure it’s actually improving our club depending on acquisition costs.”
Would guys like Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Trevor Story be worth the acquisition costs as well as the disruption of this team’s mojo? In-season position-player deals work best when the import fills a void rather than kicks an established guy aside; think of Yoenis Cespedes joining the Mets in 2015, or David Justice with the Yankees in 2000.
These questions become more meaningful because of the special vibe this group has built, grinding through a blizzard of injuries. Said Scott: “[We] always have to do our due diligence so that we understand not just the kind of the player that we’re bringing in but the kind of person, because I do think it’s important and what we do have in the clubhouse has been pretty special. And we want to keep that going or even add to it.”
The fewer mound TBDs the Mets require moving forward, the more likely they can prevail in this slog of a division race … and pose a threat in October, too.
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