The best I can tell, 10 of the league's 15 teams in AL still consider themselves "contending," while seemingly only the Giants and Marlins are, at this point, set on beings sellers before the deadline.
At 28-32 and five games back of the last Wild Card spot, the Mets are presently among the NL teams riding the fence. To hit 90 wins, which is what it typically takes to reach the postseason, the Mets will need to play .560 baseball, which is not out of the realm of possibility. If this is going to happen, it has to start now, specifically this week playing the Giants and Rockies at home.
It's not going to be easy, though, especially with multiple key players underperforming, banged up, or on the injured list. Best case scenario, the Mets get themselves to be slightly above .500, and well within reach of the Wild Card by winning or splitting every series between now and the end of July. This level success would hopefully make them buyers.
However, if they play sideways or worse during the next few weeks, they'll no doubt be sellers looking to move pitching and bench players.
In the event GM Brodie Van Wagenen decides to become a seller, here are five players from his roster that will draw interest in advance of the July 31 trade deadline, followed by teams that could have interest.
Lugo was activated last week after spending time on the injured list recovering from right shoulder tendinitis. To date, he has been one of the team's best relief pitchers. His 2.86 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 35 strikeouts in 28.1 innings has impressed teams in need of help in the bullpen.
Plus, with 168 innings during his career as a starting pitcher compared to 126 innings as reliever, he brings additional value to a new team by providing depth in the rotation.
Lugo is due to earn roughly $300,000 between now and the end of the season, making him a bargain compared to the $4-5 million in WAR value he is projected by FanGraphs to provide during that time. He is eligible for arbitration next season for the first time in his career, and is not due to be a free agent until after the 2022 season, at which point he'll be 32 years old.
The Mets might be reluctant to deal him because of his value during the next few seasons, but that is exactly why he has significant trade value.
Lugo is a perfect fit for the Braves, who need both a starting pitcher and reliever. However, I assume Van Wagenen would be reluctant to deal him to Atlanta if he believes he can compete with them for the division during the next few seasons.
That said, the Twins, A's, Cubs, and Dodgers are rumored to all be in the market for versatile, back-end bullpen help, but I'd bet that list also includes another 10-12 teams.
More or less everything I just wrote about Lugo can be applied here to Gsellman, including the salary, years of arbitration, and experience as a starting pitcher and reliever.
Gsellman is a few years younger than Lugo, but he's been far more inconsistent and a bit less effective. That said, he has shown he can be an effective closer with his sink and ability to get quick, inning-ending ground balls. In the wake of the Mets trading Jeurys Familia last summer, Gsellman assumed the closer role and locked up nine second-half saves. The thing is, when that sinker isn't working, he tends to get hit hard and for deep extra-base hits.
I'd expect any team interested in Lugo will also have interest in Gsellman, which puts Van Wagenen in an interesting position. He could rely on his in-house stats, scouting, and player development people to rule on who he should keep and who he should deal. Or he can keep or trade both players. The point is, in having two pitchers making little money each with three years control and the ability to serve in multiple roles, Van Wagenen has options in an end of the market where lots of teams will be buying.
The market for starting pitching will be busy and is not likely to take shape until late July, though I do think the Giants will move Madison Bumgarner as soon as they are met with an appealing deal.
It's early, but I hear the Cardinals, Astros, Braves, Pirates, Brewers, Padres, Rockies and Angels are already reaching out to teams to lay ground work for July.
At the same, a few of these organizations expect the Nationals, Rangers, Blue Jays and, of course, the Mets to have pitching to sell, specifically Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler.
I know, I know, you've heard and read it all before: Syndergaard has trade value, he's sought after by several teams, reports indicate Van Wagenen is open to trading him, the Mets deny all reporting and inevitably Syndergaard stays put...
I expect the same will happen again between now and July. However, if the Mets are ever going to deal him, this summer might be the best time to do it.
Syndergaard is 26 years old, due to earn $3-4 million the rest of this season, after which he is again eligible for arbitration and set to be a free agent after 2021. At the same time, he's having a good-not-great season. Or, I should say he's not having the dominant, Thor-like season expected of him.
He's on pace to throw 210 innings and roughly 3.5-4.0 WAR, according to FanGraphs. This is underwhelming for Syndergaard, but would be a huge addition to any team needing a pitcher. Plus, the acquiring team has him for two additional seasons.
In the past, be it under Van Wagenen or his predecessor, Sandy Alderson, the Mets were rumored to be asking for elite prospects and one or two big-league players in a deal for Syndergaard.
The Mets were usually fielding offers for Jacob deGrom at the same time. With deGrom now inked to a long-term extension, the focus will be on Noah, who Van Wagenen almost certainly has considered being worthy of his own long-term deal.
Van Wagenen could always keep Syndergaard, determine the likelihood of the Mets contending in 2020, and look to deal his No. 2 pitcher this winter. The risk the Mets run in keeping Syndergaard, though, is a potential injury, which makes it almost impossible to deal him now or this winter. It also likely punts contract negotiations to the next year.
It seems other teams may look at him the same way.
"Right now, we see him as a top 20 starting pitcher in the National League, not top a 10," an AL talent evaluator told me. "To be honest, I'd rather give up less for Wheeler and get a guy for just this season because I still see some risk associated with Syndergaard given how he throws the baseball."
The ask on him will be less than Syndergaard, yet Wheeler has slightly less mileage on his arm, he's having the better of the two seasons, and he is also on pace to throw 200 innings.
Also, unlike Syndergaard, Wheeler is due to be a free agent this fall, which will likely motivate him to push himself the final two months of the year.
It was difficult to get a read on Wheeler's trade value because he will likely make three, maybe even four more starts before we see legit trade rumors. However, I'd look to what the Giants get for Bumgarner for a clue on who may have interest in Wheeler, and what they'll be willing to pay.
It will be very interesting to see how Van Wagenen handles Diaz, especially since up to six teams will be in the market for an established closer.
The thing is, in addition to having a ton of talent, a proven track record, and three more years under contract, Diaz was a major part of Van Wagenen's marquee swap this past winter with the Mariners. If Diaz is dealt away and Robinson Cano continues to underperform, the trade with Seattle will prove to have been a colossal bust.
Cano's contribution during the next few years is needed, but Diaz as a high-end reliever provides a unique value to Van Wagenen, especially considering Diaz is just 25 and arbitration eligible for the first time this winter.
"He's been up and down, but still having a very good year compared to other possibly available back-end guys," the same evaluator mentioned above said. "I can think of a few teams off the top of my head that will almost certainly ask about him."
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!