Tricks of the Trade

Come the July 31 trading deadline, current Mets players such as Francisco Rodriguez could be pitching elsewhere.
Come the July 31 trading deadline, current Mets players such as Francisco Rodriguez could be pitching elsewhere.

The beginning of the 2011 season has been unique for the Metropolitans so far. After starting off abysmally, at one point losing 12 of 16 games, the team has finally woken up and is currently in the midst of a five-game winning streak. The team seems to peak and fall with its potential and it is obvious that the club is in a state of  identity transition.

This roller coaster of a first month has me wondering about the future of the Mets and what Sandy Alderson has in store for the coming years. Who will stay? Who will go? Who is the future of this seemingly identity-less team?

While the Mets have given a jolt to the fan base with their latest surge in the standings, I still can’t see them contending for a title later in the season – they don’t have the established talent to compete.

As much as it pains me to say this, I think the days of Jose Reyes wearing orange and blue might be over. I like to believe that Alderson will sign the shortstop to a lucrative deal that will ensure I get to watch Reyes run the bases in Citi Field for the next seven-plus years, but the more I think about it the more I doubt Reyes will be leading off in 2012.

However, what I am certain of is Alderson’s ability to trade Reyes and receive a substantial return. Teams such as the Giants, Twins and Red Sox could be shopping for a shortstop when July rolls around, and I am confident Alderson will only trade Reyes if he knows he will be able to receive a substantial package of prospects and key-players in return for the former gold-glovers’ services.  I believe Alderson is currently evaluating Reyes’ ability and performance and will have a decision on his future by the July 31 trading deadline.

As for other Mets, their future is still clouded in mystery. Chief among those who might be wearing another uniform down the stretch are Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez.

Beltran has started off surprisingly strong this April, hitting three home runs with 10 RBI’s, a .289 average and a .513 slugging percentage. His strong start could give him some trade value to a team looking for a strong bat to stabilize their offense heading into the playoff race.

While Beltran’s surgically-repaired knee will certainly keep his value at a humbling level, his promising offensive production has given him astronomically more value than he had at the start of the season.  Potential suitors likely won’t line up until the season progresses further and teams begin to realize if they are contenders or pretenders.

K-Rod is in a different situation and his trade value completely hinges on how many games he finishes by the time the Mets shop him. If Rodriguez finishes 55 games this season, a $17.5 million option will vest, which is a ghastly price-tag for a reliever of any kind and an astronomical one for a reliever with a questionable temper and ability to make every game seem close. In the Mets first 22 games, K-Rod only finished six games – which is on pace for 44 games finished by the season’s end.

Despite these glaring reasons not to trade for Rodriguez, he could still be a great pickup for a savvy front office who utilizes him in a set-up capacity.  K-Rod’s intensity is also palpable and could give a potential team a late inning energy boost, and if used to complement another closer the buying team could avoid him closing games and the hefty price tag for 2012. This is not taking into consideration Rodriguez’s substantial resume which includes a major league record for saves in a single-season.

K-Rod would not net the Mets much in a trade considering the multiple reasons listed above as to why he would be difficult to deal, but Alderson might be able to craft a deal that has a gem or two hidden within for the orange and blue.

All of this is contingent on the Mets not competing in the coming months, which remains to be seen. Who knows? Maybe Jason Bay’s return to the lineup was the miracle this team needed. Maybe the pitching will continue to be stable and the Mets might be shopping come July.  Misguided optimism aside, the future of the Mets might seem uncertain but I am confident the direction will eventually be the right one.