Well, this is an unexpected spot in which these plucky 2010 Mets find themselves, isn't it? Right there neck-and-neck with the Braves, clear of the slumping Phillies for now and with every reason to believe themselves legitimate contenders with six weeks left until the trade deadline.
This wasn't supposed to happen. The starting pitching wasn't supposed to allow it. The rotation was supposed to fall apart, and the Mets were supposed to be doomed because of it.
A funny thing happened, though. The starting pitching did fall apart -- John Maine, Oliver Perez and, for a time, Jonathon Niese all hit the disabled list. But the replacements -- R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi -- have stepped in and done even better than the guys they replaced.
So yes, the Mets have to go for it. You can't get to June 17 in New York a half-game out of first place and tell your fans you're not going to add at the trade deadline. The Mets will have to go out and add a player at the deadline to strengthen them for the stretch run. And that player probably should be a pitcher, because counting on Dickey, Takahashi and Niese to continue to do what they're doing for the rest of the year is naïve.
But this is where things get sticky. Because the Mets aren't really sure if this can all hold up and keep them in a race -- even a race as weak as that which takes place every year for the National League's Wild Card spot. They may not want to go all-out and sell off the future. The difference-making pitcher that would announce them as a serious threat to compete for the whole thing -- Cliff Lee of the Mariners or Roy Oswalt of the Astros -- is likely to cost too much. The Mets' Minor League plan appears to be working, as they're churning out real big league contributors. They probably don't want to start throwing Ike Davis and Jenrry Mejia into win-now deals in 2010 when they look like such big, promising parts of 2011 and beyond.
So what's left is guys like Jake Westbrook and Brett Myers and Kevin Millwood -- guys who won't make fans jump up and down or electrify the clubhouse as the big July acquisition. You can sit and make the argument that those guys might not be any better the rest of the way than Dickey or Takahashi, and you might be right.
Personally, I'd go the first way. I say this is New York, and you don't get too many chances to win. If you get into the playoff field anything can happen. I'd go for Oswalt (who'd still be here next year, by the way), and if it took Ike Davis to make it happen, I'd go and get Russell Branyan or somebody like that to plug in at first base for the rest of the year. I'd look at the way my Minor League system is producing talent and say I expect it to continue, so to use the guys who've come up this year as trade chips makes some sense, because I feel like we can replace them.
To go halfway and get a Millwood or Myers or Westbrook is the worst possible way to go -- it costs you talent and doesn't clearly improve your chances of winning this year. How many Doyle Alexander stories are out there?
I didn't think the Mets had a shot this year. And I still don't think their current roster is good enough to get them to the playoffs. But there they are, right on Atlanta's tail, and that means they have to go for it. My point is, if you're going to go for it, then really go for it. If you're going to play to win this year, then make the moves that vastly improve your chances, not the ones that only do it marginally.
The Mets have the resources to pull off something big. They're pleasantly surprised to find themselves in a position where it makes some sense to do so. I guess, at long last, they have to take a shot. If you're a Mets fan, you should just hope they aim high enough.