Mets get routed by the Nationals, and where all of this is going...
The Mets reportedly traded one hall of famer, more Mets players have questions, and how long will this take to fix?
What’s Up with the Mets? ⚾️
The Mets were routed by the Nationals 11-6 at Citi Field on Saturday (box)
Carlos Carrasco started for the Mets and was crushed, allowing eight runs in only three innings of work - his ERA is 6.40 for the year
The Mets did hit four home runs - Tommy Pham homered in the fourth inning, Francisco Lindor hit a two-run shot in the fifth, and Francisco Álvarez and Mark Vientos went back-to-back for solo shots in the ninth inning
The Mets reportedly traded RHP Max Scherzer to the Texas Rangers in exchange for SS/2B Luisangel Acuña (story)
New York will pay-off approximately $35 million of Scherzer’s remaining contract
Acuña is the club’s new No. 1 overall prospect, per SNY’s Joe DeMayo
Today’s Game 🗓
Match-up: Mets (49-55) vs Nationals (44-61)
Starting pitchers: RHP Justin Verlander (3-4, 3.24 ERA) vs. RHP Trevor Williams (5-5, 4.47 ERA)
Where: Citi Field – Flushing, NY
When: 1:40 PM EDT
Where to Watch: WPIX
The state of the Mets franchise… ✍️
I honestly didn’t believe the Mets would trade Max Scherzer or Justin Verlander heading into the trade deadline. I figured moving them would simply require more heavy lifting and more heavy spending on a starting rotation and pitching staff that already requires such work this coming winter.
Then came Scherzer’s comments on Friday night regarding the front office moving David Robertson to the Marlins. At that point, I said to myself, “there’s no way he’s going to pitch for the Mets again.”
There’s no reason to rehash what he said - Rich did a great job contextualizing those comments yesterday. But it was very difficult for me to see him going back out there for this club after saying on the one hand, ‘I’m a reason the team stinks,’ and then on the other, basically saying, ‘I want to talk to the front office about where this franchise is going.’
My response would’ve been to him, “well, that depends on people like you, ie those who put on the uniform.”
Now that Scherzer has reportedly been traded to the Rangers, I think anything is in play for this front office. I’d also remain open to the possibility that this move could signal not just a one year project, but perhaps a two-year reboot considering how much needs to change not just with this major league roster, but with the farm system becoming capable of birthing quality players. That’s not something people want to hear, nor should it be something people should accept. But, let’s be real about the state of this franchise on July 30, 2023:
They’re 49-55, in 4th place in the NL East. They are a non-competitive factor in this division. They are unlikely to be able to catch the Braves next year either, and now the Marlins are starting to come into their own as well
They’re seven games out of a wild card spot with four teams to jump, three of which are younger, faster, more athletic, more agile, and have deeper farm systems. That doesn’t include the Reds, who are already in a wild card spot and are loaded with young talent on their roster and in their minor leagues
More Mets - including Pete Alonso - are now questioning the direction of the franchise and want that same conversation Scherzer called for on Friday night
The Mets best pitching hope for the big leagues in the organization right now - top to bottom - is 40 years old and pitching today for the club. Assuming he doesn’t get traded
The Mets have some nice prospects, but there is literally nobody at Double-A or Triple-A who is going to come here and serve as transformative pieces for this organization in 2024
Context: The 18th best prospect for the Marlins became the Mets sixth best prospect when he was traded to the Mets for David Robertson
These are the Mets, this is the state of the franchise. And it is one that is suffering.
This is the reality Mets owner Steve Cohen unquestionably realized when he woke up for his morning cup of Joe on Friday. This is also what he was talking about (more or less) during his long and candid press conference about the state of the Mets back in June.
He has proven he can spend more money than anyone ever has in the history of the sport on a single-season payroll, and have it amount to jack.
I’ll break this down into parts of my whole thinking…
Max Scherzer has come and gone
Scherzer made 42 starts as a Met, going 20-9 with a 3.02 ERA in 1.5 years with the club. It was an up and down 3.02 ERA, however - he struggled most of this season short of a handful of starts with statistically-demonstrated diminished stuff. He was fantastic last year until the end of September and into the playoffs, pitched with an injury all year, and proved he was the bulldog and the leader the Mets hoped he would be.
But again, he was a diminished player this season, and honestly, a big reason why the team has struggled. He admitted so himself on Friday night. We’ve said since he got here - this team is going where Scherzer and either Verlander or, in last year’s case, Jacob deGrom will take them.
Well, we saw how that played out against the Braves in the division last September, we saw how that played out against the Padres in October.
He’s a future hall of famer. He is easily a top 3 pitcher over the last 25 years. He changed the Mets in so many positive ways, turning them into a destination, turning them into a winner last year, giving them credibility on and off the field. And look - he was great until the end of last season and nobody can dispute that. I certainly hope for him he can get the Rangers to the place they want to be this season and next.
Anything is on the table
The only pieces the Mets shouldn’t consider moving right now are Pete Alonso, Francisco Alvarez, Edwin Díaz, and Francisco Lindor. That doesn’t mean that everyone else is getting traded. In fact, most of them will not. Certainly, the Mets should trade Mark Canha, Tommy Pham, perhaps Brooks Raley and Adam Ottavino, ie anything contenders team value this time of year, even if it means the return is small. But clearly, Mr. Cohen is willing to be creative, do things other teams can’t, won’t or have never done before at the deadline, and willing to spend more money to bulk this farm system up. See below on that.
The point is, he may try to be just as creative to jettison Verlander, José Quintana, Jeff McNeil, or anyone with a long-term or expensive/complicated contract.
I also believe that if the Mets want to avoid punting 2024 as well, they’ll need to parlay some of these players into usable big league parts, even if it means banking on a return that has a complicated contract of it’s own.
The prospect they are getting
The Mets are reportedly getting a premium prospect back in this deal for Scherzer. They are sending $36 million to Texas along with the player to get this prospect back. His name is Luisangel Acuña.
Acuña is the brother of Braves superstar Ronald Acuña, Jr. The Mets version of Acuña was the Rangers third-best prospect and the 44th best prospect overall according to MLB.com, meaning he will likely land as the Mets top prospect on many charts. This is a big, albeit expensive get for the Mets - they are essentially paying $36 million for a player who has never played in the majors before.
Just think about that for a second.
And, they’re actually saving money on this deal since they’re only paying have of Scherzer’s player option he was unquestionably going to exercise for 2024. Except that, well, he isn’t here anymore.
Anyway, that can perhaps place an unfair spotlight on Acuña, especially in this market where there is so much scrutiny and analysis with every step these players take. He is a middle infielder by trade which means he is going to project as the club’s future second baseman, at least until Lindor slows down and has to move to another position.
These are the kind of prospects the Mets need. But they can’t be procured by trading away eight figures in cash and future hall of famers in the process. Their drafting needs to improve, their player development needs to improve, they need to improve the rate in which they graduate their own to the big leagues, and they need to be the ones creating these kinds of prospects having only paid out their signing bonuses and minor league salaries.
This is why they’re in the situation they’re in. Plain and simple.
What does this mean for Justin Verlander?
Ah, the other $150 million question.
Like Scherzer was, Verlander has been clear he wants to remain with the Mets. But, as you should know by now, what a player says in public can be a lot different than what he says in private.
I don’t know if the Mets will trade Verlander. He has shown that his early season struggles are behind him, and he’s still the Justin Verlander the Mets hoped he would be.
It’s more of a question of whether or not they should trade him. And the answer is, if there’s a team offering a top 5 prospect in a package for him, they should at least explore it. Verlander’s contract is more complicated since he’s owed $43 million guaranteed next year and he holds a performance-based player option for 2025.
How much of the $14 million they owe Verlander this year, the $43 million he’s owed next year, and the potential $35 million he’s owed in 2025 would the Mets be willing to pay for another club’s top prospect? Is it wise to add even more dead money (and luxury tax penalties) to future payrolls?
In short, the Mets are now in a period of transition. Even if Verlander stays, they need to acquire four starting pitchers for 2024 (don’t forget the top of the depth chart plus viable alternatives, that which they do not have right now), rebuild most of their bullpen, address at least one outfield spot, decide what Brett Baty is, and oh, fix this farm system in the process.
I’ll use the word rebuild delicately here because it’s unclear if the Mets are going to punt on 2024. But from a starting pitching perspective, if the Mets intend to contend next season they’re going to have to dive back into the deep end of the starting pitcher pool, only the difference is they’re not going to have the same luxuries of giving out shorter term contracts to the pitchers they need, such as Julio Urias, (dare I say it) Marcus Stroman, or Blake Snell.
And long-term contracts for starting pitchers hardly ever work out.
Shohei Ohtani is an exception, of course, and yes, the Mets should do everything they can do sign him. But that’s easier said than done, especially now with so many questions about the state of the franchise.
Around the League 🚩
Aaron Judge homered and the Yankees looked like the team they want to be in their 8-3 win over the Orioles
The Astros had their way with the Rays in a 17-4 drubbing at Minute Maid Park - Tampa Bay is 16-24 since June 10
The Diamondbacks used six pitchers to edge the Mariners 4-3 in the desert
The Cubs won their eighth straight game and are now just 3.5 games out of first place thanks to their 5-1 win over the Cardinals
The Cardinals have opted not to move Nolan Arenado before the trade deadline (MLB.com)