It’s odd to think of the 2018 New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers as being in similar situations as the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline approaches.
But both teams are– for exponentially different reasons. Because both teams have a unique opportunity to use this year’s trade deadline to dramatically impact their franchises this season, and for years in the future.
After a sluggish start to the season, the Dodgers are surging. On May 16th LA was 16-26, 8.5 games back of the D-Backs in 4th place in the NL West.
Old school sports writers, usually focused on pitcher wins and hitter batting averages, blew the dust off their calculators and sagely announced the Dodgers would have to play .650 ball the rest of the way if they hoped to get back into the NL West race.
Well oops! Over the past 37 games LA has actually played at a .730 clip.
Since May 16th the Dodgers have gone 27-10 and are currently 2.5 games back in second place and sport a healthy +57 Run Differential.
As we know, the New York Mets have gone in the opposite direction. On May 1st the Mets were 17-10, five games up in first place in the NL East.
On Tuesday June 26th they were 32-45, in 4th place in the East with a crippling -50 DIFF some 12.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves.
So how could these two teams have a connection?
On the face of things, the Dodgers don’t really have to do much of anything at the non-waiver trade deadline.
Sure, adding a quality bullpen piece would be a good idea and there are few teams that would turn down an opportunity to grab another dependable starter.
Certainly LA’s top-rated farm system is stocked with the kind of young, super-talented players other organizations dream about. And the Dodgers could give up two or three quality farm pieces and still have a top five minor league organization.
But for the Los Angeles Dodgers, there is a rare opportunity right now to re-set their 25-man roster before the calendar forces them to do it, maybe two or three years down the line.
In the next four weeks, Manny Machado one of the game’s best hitters, will likely be dealt. Because he’s a free agent at the end of the 2018 season, the Baltimore Orioles have to move him in the next month to get some kind of return before the clock strikes October.
Machado may be a two-and-a-half-month rental, but he brings the kind of elite offense and defense that could not only jumpstart a contending team into October baseball, but gives that team the chance to actually win October baseball games.
The huge opening here for the Dodgers would be to trade for Machado before the July trade deadline and put him at shortstop. Then make a big push to sign him in the off-season and accelerate the infield positional changes LA was already planning to make down the line.
It has been speculated that 24-year-old Dodger shortstop Corey Seager, currently on the DL and out for the rest of the season, is ultimately headed to third base. Seager is a franchise player who will under team control for the next four seasons. He is arbitration-eligible in 2019 and can’t become a free agent until 2022.
The Dodgers could start the 2019 season with Seager at third base and Machado at shortstop. Which would put current LA third bagger Justin Turner at first base next year.
Turner is signed through 2020, which gives the Dodgers the opportunity to have Cody Bellinger anchor center field for the next two seasons, then move him back to first base in 2021, when he will still be only 25 years old.
It would be a bold plan for a team that has won the National League West each of the past five seasons. But a franchise-changing player like Manny Machado does not often become available, and the fact that he brings quality defense to an elite position makes him even more valuable.
The New York Mets also have an opportunity, but it’s a tough one to swallow for the organization and their fanbase.
The Mets front office has to tear this team down to the ground and rebuild it from the foundation up.
Both pitchers need to be traded, along with reliever Jeurys Familia, and any attractive hitters on the 25-man roster with the possible exception of 25-year-old Brandon Nimmo and 25-year-old Michael Conforto.
Here’s the harsh NL East reality check.
The Atlanta Braves aren’t going anywhere over the next several years, except to be increasingly strong contenders to make the National League playoffs every season.
And the Philadelphia Phillies have the kind of exceptionally talented young players in their organization that should also keep them in contention for many seasons to come.
The Washington Nationals are the big dogs in the house, and they are by far still the most talented team in the Division. Having said that, the Nats are currently in third place in the NL East and fighting to stay relevant.
For the Mets to open the 2019 season with deGrom and Syndergaard, and Familia and any number of other players currently on the 25-man roster, would be a catastrophic exercise in futility.
And every season those players are not moved, they lose a little more value.
This is a fourth-place team that is currently only a game and a half ahead of the down and out, but already rebuilding, Miami Marlins.
If New York’s front office doesn’t go for a complete dump, because they want to continue to pretend this team can contend, their fans will be condemned to years of futility and possible clinical depression.
I mean, this is a concerning medical issue that most health plans do not cover, and it’s preexisting among many Met fans.
So will either the surging Dodgers or the declining Mets do a major reboot before July 31st?
Both teams could argue they don’t have to do anything. But both teams have a rare window of opportunity to accomplish a lot if they have the resolve to actually do something big.