While the standings typically divide Major League Baseball into buyers and sellers at the July 31 trade deadline with a high degree of logic and reason, there is sometimes no accounting for whim, reckless abandon or the New York Mets.
And so, the main-event portion of this summer's trade season commenced Sunday evening, less than 72 hours before Wednesday's 4 p.m. deadline, with a shocker of a deal: The New York Mets, 11 1/2 games out of first place in the National League East and six back of an NL wild card, made a big move — not to unload veteran pieces, but to acquire one.
The Mets reportedly reached agreement with the Toronto Blue Jays to acquire right-hander Marcus Stroman, a top target of a half-dozen or more contenders. The deal, which reportedly would send pitching prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson to the Blue Jays, remains unofficial, pending physical exams. MLB.com first reported a deal was done; The Athletic first reported Toronto's return.
The word "contender" is not one that has often been applied to the Mets in recent weeks - outside of Queens, apparently. Aside from their sizable deficits in the standings and their fourth-place position in the East at 50-55, the Mets were also staring up at seven teams ahead of them in the wild-card chase — a hill most teams would see as insurmountable.
But a 10-4 spurt over the past two weeks, capped by an 8-7 win against Pittsburgh on Sunday, may have swayed the Mets' brain trust and caused the unforeseen shift from sellers - with closer Edwin Díaz, third baseman Todd Frazier and starters Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler among those rumored to have been available - to sudden buyers.
Stroman, a 28-year-old Long Island native, was one of the prized arms of this marketplace, a first-time all-star this season who sports a career-best 2.96 ERA and who should be able to put up even better numbers in the NL. He is also under team control through the 2020 season — which means the Mets, even if they fall short this year, could still field a formidable rotation, headed by ace Jacob deGrom, next season.
The Mets, of course, could still sell off veterans from their roster before the deadline — with Wheeler, a pending free agent, perhaps the most logical asset to unload. But after going all-in for 2019 this winter, including trading top prospects Justin Dunn and Jarred Kelenic (among others) to Seattle for Díaz and second baseman Robinson Canó, the Mets appear in no hurry to write off the rest of this season.