Break up the Mets? Not just yet

Faced with 'dilemma' of winning, front office shouldn't rush into dismantling the club

Updated: July 6, 2011, 1:40 PM ET
By Adam Rubin |

LOS ANGELES -- The Braves keep winning. So do the Phillies. So despite the recent strong play of the New York Mets, they remain 6½ games out in the wild-card standings and 10½ games off the pace in the National League East.

Those deficits probably will end up being insurmountable, given the caliber of the teams the Mets are chasing. In fact, the Mets' fade may come soon. They face seven straight All-Star-caliber starting pitchers beginning Thursday: L.A.'s Clayton Kershaw, San Francisco's Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, then "those animals coming in from Philly" after the All-Star break, to use manager Terry Collins' words.

Yet the Mets' downfall predicted during the last trip, to American League division leaders Texas and Detroit, did not materialize. The Mets won both series. They then salvaged the final game from out of nowhere against the Yankees. And now, after winning the opening two games of a four-game set against the reeling Los Angeles Dodgers, including Tuesday night's 6-0 victory, the Mets again are a season-high two games over .500.

[+] EnlargeCarlos Beltran
AP Photo/Francis SpeckerEven if the Mets keep him this month, All-Star Carlos Beltran could still be moved if he clears waivers.

And this much is clear: As reports surface about the Mets shopping relievers Francisco Rodriguez, Jason Isringhausen and Tim Byrdak, the season deserves to play out more before any dismantling occurs.

Will it be to the long-term detriment of the Mets not to sell players who are likely departing at season's end anyway? Sure.

But here is what general manager Sandy Alderson said Monday, when asked if it would be easier to have the clarity of, say, being 10 games under .500: "I fail to see the dilemma in playing well, regardless of the circumstances. We're very happy with the way we're playing."

Alderson went on to drily suggest the Mets need to get above .500, which they now have, and "increase the 'dilemma.'"

Isringhausen clearly would be the easiest piece to trade if the Mets elected to do so, despite his durability issues at age 38. Isringhausen's low salary and closing experience would make him marketable in a relief role for contenders. Byrdak, 37 years old and on a one-year deal, should be attractive as well because quality left-handed relievers always are a commodity.

The trickiest person to trade would be Rodriguez, even if the Mets are eager to move him. If K-Rod reaches 55 games finished, his 2012 option kicks in at $17.5 million. Otherwise, the Mets owe Rodriguez a $3.5 million buyout in addition to his $11.5 million salary for this season. K-Rod is currently on pace for 60 games finished after going unused Tuesday.

On the position-player side, if the Mets fade, they would look to move right fielder Carlos Beltran, who is in the final year of his deal and is unlikely to be re-signed. Beltran, like K-Rod, should be able to be traded after July 31 anyway. They both should clear waivers given their large salaries.

For now, though, enjoy the unexpected ride.

Are the Mets truly in contention? Probably not. But give them the opportunity to prove or disprove that for themselves.

Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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