Despite the glut of injuries that have hit the Mets’ pitching staff and lineup, and despite the slumps from several expected contributors, the Mets currently have a one-game lead for the top Wild Card spot in the National League. And with 10 of their 13 remaining games coming against the two worst teams in their division (the Phillies and Braves), New York has put itself in position for a return trip to the postseason. Fangraphs puts the Mets’ playoff odds at 88.9 percent, while Baseball Prospectus pegs them at 89.5 percent.
A few notes on the current NL Wild Card favorites…
- John Harper of the New York Daily News spoke to a Mets official who admitted that the Mets badly wanted to acquire Jonathan Lucroy at the non-waiver trade deadline but found the asking price to be too substantial. The Brewers were insistent that any package for Lucroy be headlined by one of Michael Conforto or top shortstop prospect Amed Rosario, and the Mets simply weren’t comfortable trading either player. “We knew how much Lucroy would help us, but we couldn’t do it,” the unnamed source told Harper. “And looking back now, it was still the right decision. Conforto and Rosario are young, cornerstone players.”
- Conforto, of course, is receiving scarce playing time because the Mets’ apparent fallback option, Jay Bruce, has occupied right field regularly since being acquired on Aug. 1. Bruce, though, hasn’t hit at all for the Mets, and Harper writes that his struggles have been pronounced enough that the team could have to consider buying out his $13MM option rather than exercising it. If anything, Harper argues, the struggles of Bruce in New York illustrates how badly the Mets need to retain Yoenis Cespedes, and shedding Bruce’s $13MM commitment could help them to achieve that end.
- Interestingly, Harper also writes that there’s a “faction” among Mets decision-makers that would like to see Conforto shift over the first base full-time in 2017, but there’s still no consensus as to whether the Mets will retain Lucas Duda. The 30-year-old Duda was just activated from the disabled list yesterday after missing months due to a stress fracture in his back. He hasn’t been able to take the field much this season (41 games) and is due a raise on his $6.7MM salary in his final scheduled trip through arbitration this winter. I’m of the belief that a $7-8MM salary for a healthy Duda is a no-brainer, but only the Mets know how likely it is that Duda’s back issues will pose a lingering problem into the 2017 season.
- Speaking of back issues, Neil Walker tells Kristie Ackert of the Daily News that he considers the Mets a “good fit” for him, but he’s remaining open to all possibilities in free agency as he heals from season-ending back surgery. Walker is already pain-free in his back and can walk and perform resistance-band exercises, but he says it’ll be three months before he can resume baseball activities. Walker adds that his agent doesn’t believe the injury will severely hamper his free agent stock. “To be honest with you, I have been playing with this for over two-and-a half-years, this has been something I have been living with,” the second baseman said. “I can tell you the last three days, I’ve gotten out of bed and my back hasn’t hurt and I haven’t had that for about two-and-a-half years.”