So Anthony DiComo has a report on where the Mets are, roughly two days out from the non-waiver trade deadline. And here’s the portion that is particularly bewildering:
“With starting pitchers Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler already entrenched in the rotation and several other promising young arms coming up through the system, the Mets feel they are closer to competing on an annual basis than they have been since the middle of last decade. So they will not do anything to disrupt their roster unless it makes sense for 2014 — not for 2015, 2016 or beyond.”
The bewildering part isn’t what DiComo is writing, but rather the thinking he is reporting. As argument against dealing Bobby Parnell, I understand it. This is not to say I think the Mets shouldn’t deal Parnell, a fungible asset (closers almost all are), if there is better value to get back. But Parnell is under team control for two more years after this one, and on the strength of his past two seasons since taking up the knuckle curve, he’s a solid bullpen building block in 2014.
But Byrd: his value to this team is in 2013. And that’s it. Byrd will be a free agent at the end of the year. The Mets can either bet on him by offering him the one-year deal required to receive compensation if he signs elsewhere, which was more than $13 million in 2012 and which Byrd would likely sign ridiculously fast. (Also, idea that Mets have that $13 million to spend on him is decidedly dicey at this point.)
Otherwise, they will have the same chance to sign him this winter as everyone else, getting to decide if a career league average hitter who hasn’t even been that since 2010 is suddenly now a good bet to be well above league average in 2014, his age-36 season.
So if they could only receive help for 2015 and 2016: well, those years exist, too. And they aren’t sacrificing 2014 beyond losing out on the added revenue employing Marlon Byrd brings in for 2013. Of course, even that revenue, for years, has been earmarked not for improving the team, but for keeping ownership afloat.
And bottom line: that’s the same short-term interests this team has so often followed. When Sandy Alderson has been permitted to think long-term, instead, players like Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard are added to the organization. Both are pretty good bets to at least be around to help the Mets in 2014.
Even the idea that there is some value in a better 2013 record leads to the obvious question: why didn’t management take basic steps this winter to try and add outfielders ready to help in 2013 and 2014, for instance, on two-year deals? The result would have improved this team, broadened the talent base of the next team, and made dealing an out-of-nowhere performance like Byrd’s far easier to swallow. The answer, of course, lies north of Alderson, where the wallets were empty.
So we are dealing with short-term questions, less than a year out from ownership’s due date on a $320 million loan against the team. Now, that may or may not mean Byrd will be retained. This could all be posturing. We’ll see where things stand at 4 PM on Wednesday.
But remember: keeping Marlon Byrd is not about helping the 2014 Mets. And if ownership needs whatever that small marginal revenue is provided by Marlon Byrd, they are again taking it at the expense of the future competitiveness, measured by whichever prospect the Mets don’t receive in return for Byrd, of the on-field team. It’s the same story, large and small, and it has really held this team back for years now.