By Patrick Brewer, Lead National League Writer
With the acquisition of Scott Kazmir on Thursday morning, the Astros made the first big move of the 2015 trade deadline season. The Pirates followed suit with the acquisition of Aramis Ramirez later in the afternoon. This morning the Cardinals continued this quick series of moves with the acquisition of Steve Cishek to help bolster an already strong bullpen. The Mets followed these opening acts of the 2015 trade deadline by finally showing that perhaps they meant business. Today the Mets finally called up Double A prospect Michael Conforto to help a woefully dreadful Mets offense and a Mets team with sinking playoff hopes. They followed this first move with a trade with the Atlanta Braves for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. The Mets finally made some moves to improve a historically pathetic offense. But will these moves be enough to propel them back into playoff discussions?
The answer to this question should be a resounding no. Let’s begin by looking at the call up of Michael Conforto. Conforto was the Mets first round draft pick in 2014 and is currently only twenty-two years old. He began his Mets career in Low A ball last year and has split time between High A ball and Double A ball so far this year. In his 91 combined games at both levels this year, Conforto has a slash-line of .297/.372/.482 with twelve home runs and fifty-four runs batted in. These are good numbers but nothing to eye-popping for a twenty-two year old in Double A. It is clear that he deserved to be called up, and it is also clear that the Mets really need all the help they can get on offense.
What is less clear is how much Conforto will actually help the Mets the rest of the year (if he actually ends up staying in the majors through the remainder of the season). It seems the injury to Michael Cuddyer was really the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back” and caused the Mets to finally make this move. While Conforto could be an upgrade over Cuddyer, who has been struggling all season, it is unclear that Conforto will really do much at the big league level. He is still a young talent, and it is exceedingly rare for a player to jump from Double A straight to the majors and have any measurable success. It seems the most that can be expected of Conforto is to provide a stop-gap until Cuddyer returns from injury, or until the Mets make a bigger play on the trade market.
According to Fangraphs projected rest of season standings, the Mets are projected to finish at exactly .500, six games behind the Chicago Cubs for the final wild card spot. Conforto may come up and have an impact. He may even come up and help the Mets out tremendously. With that being said, there is absolutely no way Conforto provides six more wins to a Mets team with a terrible offense top to bottom. More additions would need to be made to make this team a real playoff contender.
This brings us to the Mets Friday afternoon acquisitions of Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. This is a bigger deal in the baseball world than the call up of Conforto. Many people came to expect that he would be called up eventually but not many thought the Mets would actually pull the trigger and acquire talent to improve their team. These acquisitions get the Mets a little closer to playoff potential. Between the two of them, Johnson and Uribe are projected to produce a little over 1.0 WAR over the remainder of this season. This translates to one more win in the win column but still does not make the Mets much better than what they have been with Daniel Murphy, Wilmer Flores, and Ruben Tejada in the starting lineup. Actually any combination of those three players is projected to provide more WAR value for the remainder of the season than the combination of Uribe/Johnson.
So calling up Conforto and trading for Uribe and Johnson only seems to increase the Mets chances for the playoffs by somewhere in the vicinity of one win. That’s clearly not enough to make up the projected six game gap between them and the Cubs over the rest of the season. One interesting idea to consider is the eventual return of David Wright. He was just cleared for baseball activities and is still projected for around 1.0 WAR if he were to return to the Mets soon and play like he can when he is healthy. This gets them another win closer to where they need to be but still causes them to fall short of the playoffs. The Mets still need to think bigger.
If the Mets really want to make a splash this trade deadline, and really make a push for the playoffs in 2015, they need to consider trading for one of the big time players on the trade market. Obviously the Mets starting pitching staff isn’t going to get better, but the Mets could still do a lot to upgrade their poor offense. Names like Justin Upton, Carlos Gomez, Jay Bruce and Ben Zobrist are all out there and could provide the Mets with 1-2 WAR for the remainder of the season. The most logical choice for a trade seems to be Gomez or Bruce, who are still under control for the Mets next year. Regardless of which player they could get, getting one of these guys would push the Mets needle ever closer to playoff contention while acquiring two could help them find their place in the playoffs once again.
What is clear about the Mets is that they wont be able to hang around with the Washington Nationals for much longer. If the Mets want to make it into the playoffs, it seems that the Wild Card is their best bet. While the Mets have made a trade today, and have called up one of their top prospects, it still is not enough to get them over the hump and earn them a playoff berth. If the Mets want to make it to the playoffs in 2015 they are going to have to go big and acquire one or even two of the players mentioned above (or ones of similar value). Despite the desire to win being high for both the Mets organization and the Mets fanbase, it seems to not make sense for the Mets to mortgage some of their future in order to make it to the crapshoot that is the wild card game. The most logical step is standing pat and waiting until next year or acquiring an option that is controlled through next year such as Gomez or Bruce. The Mets are unlikely to go big at the trade deadline, and likely shouldn’t, and it will be another disappointing season in Flushing.