by Paul West
After winning the rubber match of what surely seemed to be their first must-win series of the season, and the New York Mets remain in the thick of the postseason picture. With the trade deadline looming a week away, it’s been generally believed that they won’t make another blockbuster deal like the one that helped propel their 2015 pennant run; but they’re also reportedly (and advisedly) in search of pitching depth, and there are plenty of solid relievers in play. The biggest concern was that the Mets would have to surrender too many of their remaining prospects in order to get a player like Aroldis Chapman. But they have two viably tradable players who are currently on the team: Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker.
Since his return, Jose Reyes has at times reminded us of the flaws in his game, while also reminding us that he’s lost a step both on the bases and in the field. But he’s nonetheless been a net positive, contributing multiple extra-base hits and providing a much-needed spark at the top of the lineup. He’s played competently at third base, albeit with lapses which betray both residual rust and lack of familiarity with the position; but his arm’s looked healthy, his hands still look solid, and more and more, he’s looking like a viable option at shortstop. Slightly diminished speed notwithstanding, he’s almost certainly the fastest player on the Mets’ roster; and he’s a virtual lock to score from second on a base hit, as well as a threat to steal a base or capitalize on missed cutoff men or bobbles in the field. And if he’s able to return to playing virtually every day at short, this would have the effect of crowding out Cabrera. Cabrera, for his part, hasn’t lately done much to command an everyday spot in the lineup; while he continues to be better than advertised on defense, his offensive struggles have become almost mind boggling. Walker, too, has struggled at the plate after a hot start to the season; he, too, has been better than many expected on defense, but he and Cabrera have felt like holes in the lineup for a while. Of course, both players are much better than they’re currently showing–especially Walker–and a change of scenery might serve them well.
Cabrera is a steady defender at both middle infield positions, who turns the double play well and can switch-hit with occasional power. Walker is a steady defender at both second base and third base, who also can switch-hit and has proven himself capable of being a run producer. With Reyes–who can now play second, third and shortstop capably while switch-hitting and providing speed and occasional power–in the lineup, Cabrera and Walker on the same bench as Kelly Johnson is a redundancy the Mets can do without.
Moving Walker or Cabrera would allow the Mets to get Wilmer Flores, who more and more has shown his upside when given regular at bats, into the lineup more often without looking over his shoulder. It would allow Reyes to stay at the top of the order on most days, rotating around the infield if needed, with Johnson, Walker or Cabrera available when he needs a break or faces a bad matchup. It would make the acquisition of a relief arm less costly, especially in the case of Walker, who would be worth a solid reliever in a one-for-one deal. And it would bring in the added pitching depth the Mets are in need of, without sacrificing lineup flexibility. It’s not the sort of big splash move many hope for, but like last year’s acquisitions of Johnson and Juan Uribe, it could be an important finishing touch.