By Ernie Palladino
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Maybe it was a good thing Sandy Alderson didn’t pull the trigger on any of the propositions that came across his desk at last Thursday’s trade deadline. He might have been enticed to give up a young pitcher or two.
Given Jacob deGrom’s most recent accomplishment, the fact that folks like Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero await below in Triple-A Las Vegas, and with still-recovering Matt Harvey making noises about pitching an inning in September, that would have been a shame. Especially if that piece bore the name deGrom.
Mets fans have suffered with a sub-par offense a long time now, and the pain isn’t over yet. But the rotation at least has the potential of juicing up a season where even a second wild-card spot stands as the longest of longshots. The 53-58 record after Madison Bumgarner’s 9-0, two-hit shutout stood them four teams and seven games behind the Giants in the wild-card race. Of course, a few more starts like Bartolo Colon’s might bring an early, necessary end to even that dream.
Terry Collins may think they’re in the hunt, but anyone who has paid attention knows the Mets have little choice but to gear up for next season. The offense is just too inconsistent. And it certainly could have benefited from a Stephen Drew or Martin Prado that the guys on the other side of town landed, despite their weak first impressions in pinstripes.
The problem with that, though — and apparently all the other trades Alderson fielded — was that he’d have to give up the young arms. No good. Alderson is wise enough to understand that, playing at pitcher-friendly Citi Field, the Mets offense is never going to become a scoring machine. It’s going to take pitching, and the Mets need to maintain all the depth they can at that position, at least for now.
Imagine, too, if Alderson had shipped someone like deGrom away. This is a kid who got robbed early, but kept his head to win five straight and go 6-1, 1.52 over his last eight outings. That little flirtation with a no-hitter Saturday wouldn’t have happened. Without that, there would have been one less reason for Mets fans’ hearts to flutter over the possibilities of a 2015 rotation which should include a healthy Harvey.
It’s significant that deGrom’s 6 2/3 innings of no-hit ball put him in the books behind Randy Tate and Doc Gooden for the third-longest no-no bid for a Mets rookie. A kid who earns mention with that final name, in any positive aspect, should be on his way to do great things.
The Daily News saw fit to breathe him in the same sentence as Harvey’s. Collins loves his poise and his Harvey-ish bulldog tenacity. Like Harvey, deGrom isn’t afraid to go after hitters. “Fearless” is the adjective the Post used to describe his mound presence.
Oh, and he hasn’t given up a homer in his last 66 1/3 innings, the longest stretch ever for a Mets rookie.
Things only fell apart for him slightly after Pablo Sandoval’s double. He left after 7 1/3, giving up four hits and two runs.
Given deGrom’s qualities, it’s not inconceivable that he has already earned a spot in next year’s rotation. The trick for Collins or his successor will be to figure out the rest of the rotation. It’s a nice headache to have.
Harvey and Zack Wheeler are musts. But what about Colon, Jon Niese, and Dillon Gee? And what about Syndergaard, who at 8-5, 4.85 with 107 strikeouts in 102 innings has made strides since a slow start and an injury in Sin City.
Perhaps the offseason is when Alderson will have the ultimate leverage to get the most for one or two of those arms. Maybe the winter meetings, not the trade deadline of a season that is all but lost, is the time to make that deal for a quality position player.
Not that the Mets have given up publicly on this year. They do fight. They do pitch.
They just don’t have enough consistent zing in their lineup to make up the stagger between themselves and that last wild-card spot.
However the rest of 2014 turns out, it will likely only be a prelude to next year’s playoff push, providing the Wilpons clear the way for Alderson to make some real offensive improvements.
For now, though, enjoy the pitching. Alderson kept them around last week for a reason.
Given deGrom’s recent performances, the GM’s silence at the trade deadline shouted confidence.
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