Billy Eppler, like many front-office executives these days, thinks about how transactions impact his team’s championship odds. There is an internal system set up and any deal is weighed by the value of future collateral versus how much you upgrade the chances to win it all.
The Mets see Juan Soto as the kind of piece that greatly changes the calculation. They also believed relatively quickly in the process that the Nationals were going to have a market for their best player to avoid having to consider dealing him within the NL East.
The Mets have not seen anyone else in the market who could change their odds dramatically, unless the Angels really would deal Shohei Ohtani. And as the weekend was ending they also considered still too expensive the prices for the next level of player in which they were interested.
Thus, their best current formula to improve their championship odds was health (notably for Jacob deGrom) plus supplementary improvements in areas of need.
Keep in mind, though, that the deadline is the great truth serum. No trades can be made after Tuesday at 6 p.m. involving 40-man roster players (even waiver trades are a thing of the past). So, as the deadline nears, the Mets will see if prices drop or whether they will reveal to potential partners that their desperation is a little higher than they are letting on and will budge on a currently off-limit prospect or two.
If not, they have dropped bread crumbs to their intentions.
The acquisitions of Daniel Vogelbach and Tyler Naquin are designed for incremental improvements, as would the injury returns of Trevor May and James McCann. DeGrom is now set to make his 2022 major league debut on Tuesday night an hour after the deadline. If he returns in full, the Mets will have changed their championship odds in a substantial way.
His return in conjunction with Max Scherzer and the strong, healthy work of Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker has notably kept the Mets mostly out of the starting pitching market. That is an amazing turnabout considering rotation depth was viewed as an area of concern even before deGrom and then Tylor Megill went down.
The Mets would not shun rotation protection. But they are not nearly as hungry to add there as the Yankees and certainly not as much as the Blue Jays, Cardinals, Twins and a few other contenders. St. Louis had been hoping that Luis Castillo would go to the Yankees, for example, knowing the Reds would not trade him in the division to the Cardinals and that would take the Yankees out of the market, particularly for Oakland’s Frankie Montas.
Currently, Montas and if the Giants move him, Carlos Rodon, fit the top rung of available starters — unless Ohtani actually gets moved (and there was large doubt about that). The Mets potentially hurt the value of Pablo Lopez enough on Sunday (12 hits and six runs in 2 ²/₃ innings) to convince the already hesitant Marlins from trading the righty.
The next level of potentially available starter includes the Angels’ Noah Syndergaard, the Guardians’ Zach Plesac/Aaron Civale, the Rangers’ Martin Perez, the Pirates’ Jose Quintana, the Tigers’ Tarik Skubal, the Reds’ Tyler Mahle and — if they decide to sell — the Red Sox’s Nathan Eovaldi and Nick Pivetta.
More than a starter, the Mets would like to improve their bullpen, catching and find a righty hitter. They have been associated with the Cubs’ Willson Contreras. But Chicago’s ask is currently more than the Mets want to offer, especially because there are internal concerns about how Contreras would mesh with the Mets’ pitching — and overall pitching is a mammoth success this year for the Mets. San Diego, if it fails to land Soto, is believed interested in Contreras. There also are not current signs that Oakland is ready to trade its superb two-way catcher Sean Murphy, though with touted prospect Shea Langeliers ready that could change.
The defense/big-game experience of Christian Vazquez is enticing to the Mets, if the Red Sox are sellers. The Mets could try to obtain him in tandem with JD Martinez, but there are a lot of industry concerns about the slumping DH and what the Red Sox have termed back spasms.
The Mets’ main priority is probably to find a reliever or two — though full health by deGrom and Megill, likely could put Megill and David Peterson in the pen. The Cubs’ David Robertson, Tigers’ Michael Fulmer and Rangers’ Matt Moore are in demand.
The Mets have pretty much taken top prospects Francisco Alvarez and Brett Baty out of play for anyone but a Soto/Ohtani type. They probably would only deal from their next tier — multi-tool center fielder Alex Ramirez, shortstop Ronny Mauricio, righty slugger Mark Vientos and starter Matt Allen (rehabbing from Tommy John surgery) — if they received multiple helpful pieces in return. The Mets are walking that tough line of knowing they have to go for it this year considering — among other things — Scherzer’s age and that deGrom, Bassitt, Walker, Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Brandon Nimmo and Adam Ottavino all can be free agents after the season.
But they want to be protective of a top-heavy system. Steve Cohen has said he wants to win a title within his first five years of ownership, but also that he wants to be like the Dodgers, including having a system from which the Mets constantly have attractive options.
So the Mets will continue trying to deduce how to raise their championship odds without too badly diminishing their near future.