MINNEAPOLIS – With the trade deadline two weeks away, the Mets put forth the kind of effort Wednesday that allows the optimist in you to dream.
They dismantled the Twins, 14-4, becoming the first team this year to sweep the Twins after taking both games in the Twin Cities.
A generous 20-game stretch against below-.500 teams now awaits them, the kind that could perhaps allow them to make up ground in the Wild Card hunt.
“Continue to strive for our goal and that’s to make the postseason. We’re getting closer, we’re inching closer and closer,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said after his team’s fourth straight win. “It’s not out of the realm of possibility and that’s what we’re focusing our sights on, getting to the postseason this year.”
A smart front office knows whether it has a contender or a pretender. The smart play is to not get caught in the moment, and look at the big picture.
And with these Mets, the reality is the outlook is still bleak even while they ride high into this soft 20-game slate.
They are still only 44-51, which is tied for the 13th-best record in the National League. Only the Marlins have a worse record.
Their playoff odds are just 8.9 percent according to Fangraphs.com, which is the ninth-best percentage in the National League.
Those odds actually improved from the start of Wednesday’s game when they were at just 7.1 percent, but 8.9 percent is still a long shot.
The two National League Wild Card spots have required an average of 93 and 90 wins in its seven years of existence. The Mets, who own a .463 win percentage, would have to go at least 46-21 –a .687 win percentage –to hit 90 wins.
The smart play would be to proceed as sellers, and recognize that chasing a long shot is not worth the risk of holding onto veterans and losing them for nothing.
It will hurt to trade Wheeler, who is currently sidelined with a right shoulder impingement, but perhaps the team can receive a prospect that can help in a year or two, provided he returns and proves he’s healthy.
Wheeler said he felt fine after throwing 20 times from 70 feet Wednesday, as Yahoo Sports first reported, and can return next Tuesday.
A case can be made for the Mets to retain Wheeler and Vargas should they offered nothing more than salary relief, but if a team wants to offer a prospect, that should take precedence over the Mets keeping them or the final two months.
Vargas recorded the win Wednesday with six innings of three-run ball, and has pitched well this year in his four starts against the Yankees, Dodgers and Twins.
Frazier went 2 for 5, and could be a useful righty bench bat for a contender in the same way David Freese helped the Dodgers down the stretch last year.
“We have to face our reality to some degree about where we are in the standings. We are going to be open-minded,” Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said recently. “We are going to be thoughtful and measured as far as what we do as we approach the deadline all with the eyes on trying to improving this club.”
With 13 NL teams in the Wild Cart hunt, it will take a lot for the Mets to be eliminated from the chase. Only the Marlins have been ousted.
This team had its chance to make a run before the break, and it flopped.
These four wins against the Twins and Marlins have been nice, but there’s still so much ground ahead of the Mets just to get back to .500.
The Mets’ front office would be best served resisting temptation.
“We’ve been playing really good baseball. Everyone has been doing their job. We’ve been scoring runs and pitching has been lights out,” Mets first baseman Pete Alonso said. “When you combine those two it’s dangerous. It’s exciting. We got some good momentum going into San Francisco. See what we can do. We have a lot of games left. See what happens. Keep on rolling.”