If half the league is to operate on the fringes of competency and postseason commitment, neither all the way in nor wholly out, then it followed that the trade deadline might conduct itself in a similar manner.
The days that led to Monday morning, and so into the final hours before Wednesday’s you-are-what-you-are, this-is-the-bullpen-and-that’s-the-fifth-starter deadline, saw a good amount of maneuvering and a lot of conversation and some splashy names and, so far, transactional hesitation.
Unless some bigger talent shakes free, the early drag on deadline roster reconstruction may also be due to the dearth of game-changing players available, or apparently available, along with the stiff cost of what could be marginal upgrades. So, perhaps, for now, you’ll have to make do with Marcus Stroman to the New York Mets, which happened Sunday afternoon, a fine example of the mediocre getting slightly less mediocre.
Just because, for example, Noah Syndergaard is one of the better pitchers on the market does not mean his ERA is reassuring, and just because teammate Edwin Diaz throws 98 doesn’t mean he’s not bringing his Mets issues with him, and just because nobody really believed the San Francisco Giants had this in them doesn’t mean it’s not really happening, which means Farhan Zaidi’s rebuild may have to wait a couple of months. Does the new guy really want to be the one to tell people about the long road ahead?
A couple of days out, speculation that a single deadline — August’s waiver deadline is gone — might encourage more aggressive dealing has not proven quite accurate. The standings are skinny on the top, skinny on the bottom and quite doughy in the middle, so, again, unless there’s an unexpected ‘chute pull in the middle of a wild-card race, about the best a buyer can hope for is an apparent overpay that turns out not to be. Stroman, maybe, for the Mets’ best two pitching prospects, unless the overpay is actually the Blue Jays’. We do ask teams to try. That seems the bare minimum. The Mets seem to be trying. For what, we’ll know more about in two days.
Given the industry had an entire free-agent class with which to improve itself and instead spent months staring at its shoes, it’s not such a surprise July had mingled like a junior high school dance.
All of this is to say the weekend concluded much as it began. That is, with the industry staring at the San Francisco Giants, who could move Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith, and at the New York Mets, who have won 10 of 14 and still could trade Syndergaard, Diaz and Zack Wheeler in spite of the Stroman deal, and at the Texas Rangers, who’d gotten perky and then realistic and might part with Mike Minor, Hunter Pence and Lance Lynn, and at the Arizona Diamondbacks, in a division where .500 has you done by June, who could be talked out of Robbie Ray and, even, Zack Greinke. There’s more, so much more, so many possibilities when bullpens all over the game need a good airing out and even the best rotations tend to run aground at the third or fourth guy.
The Cleveland Indians are as close to first place in the American League Central as they’ve been in three months and would seem to be in a position to augment their momentum. For going on two months the Washington Nationals have been the team most expected them to be, though the bullpen remains the headache that won’t ease. The hottest team in the AL East is the Boston Red Sox, and all that took was a decent few weeks, and what it’s gotten them is a reasonable shot at the wild card and some nervous tabloid headline writers down the road. The St. Louis Cardinals are tied for first place in the NL Central, this by riding Paul Goldschmidt, a month ago a bust. The Milwaukee Brewers were desperate for starting pitching before Brandon Woodruff grabbed his oblique. The Atlanta Braves had seen their offense sag even before losing Nick Markakis and Dansby Swanson to injuries. Markakis’ will bleed into September. And their rotation leans awfully heavy on a rookie and a near rookie. The New York Yankees, who six weeks ago traded for slugger Edwin Encarnacion, are down a couple starting pitchers and the ones left behind seem to be gasping. The Yankees, along with the Houston Astros and Braves, among others, were believed to be fond of Stroman, if not top-two-pitching-prospects fond.
Meantime, the early action as the deadline neared tended toward accessories — lefty Derek Holland from San Francisco to the Chicago Cubs, lefty Jake Diekman from Kansas City to Oakland, righty Sergio Romo from Miami to Minnesota, utilityman Eric Sogard from Toronto to Tampa Bay and righty Hunter Wood from Tampa Bay to Cleveland.
They can’t all be Marcus Stroman to the Mets, of course. The reality is, there might not be many Marcus Stroman to the Mets left.
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