By Ernie Palladino
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Sometimes, the offseason moves a general manager chooses not to make turn into his most important during the season.
Then again, there also exist those trades and acquisitions he should have made but didn’t that cause the whole season to blow up in his face.
Sandy Alderson must be intimately acquainted with that predicament today. Instead of trading off Dillon Gee for another much-needed piece of the offense, he stubbornly held onto the right-handed starter. Instead of finding another left-handed veteran for bullpen depth, he clung to the hopes that Josh Edgin could consistently get that tough lefty hitter out in a tight spot.
So now, here he sits, looking at a .500 percentage on those two non-moves, with Edgin headed for season-ending Tommy John surgery and Gee poised to slip back from bullpen to starting rotation if Saturday’s MRI on Zack Wheeler’s sore right elbow shows something to worry about.
It won’t be long before Alderson finds out if he made the right decisions. As things stand now, the wheels haven’t completely fallen off. But a couple of the lug nuts are loose.
There’s a good chance Wheeler’s issue is simply a bit of a chronic ache. But, given what is happening on the west side of Florida, one can lay equal odds to this turning into another ticking time bomb for a New York team. The Yanks, of course, are hoping — probably against hope — that Masahiro Tanaka’s right ulnar collateral ligament doesn’t go KABOOM! before he has a chance to do some good.
But at least the Mets have a backup to Wheeler. Gee, regarded as the odd man out of a Matt Harvey-Wheeler-Jon Niese-Jacob deGrom-Bartolo Colon rotation, is well-equipped to step back in. That Alderson kept him around for experienced depth shows he’s at least paying attention.
“This possibility, or something like it, has probably been a reason we’ve been hesitant to trade pitching,” Alderson told the media Saturday. “This is what happens. Guys are going down all over the place.”
For a franchise labeled for years as clueless, at least Alderson’s actions indicate a new-found level of awareness. He has certainly noted the growing injury list, at the head of which stands the Tommy John-bound Ranger ace Yu Darvish. The Phillies’ Cliff Lee, the former AL Cy Young Award winner, could join soon, or retire, if he can’t coax his partially torn right flexor (elbow) tendon through the season.
Toronto’s Marcus Stroman is done for the year with a torn knee ligament, and Mike Minor will open the season on Atlanta’s disabled list after taking an anti-inflammatory injection in his rotator cuff.
So Alderson was right in hanging onto Gee for dear life.
The bullpen circumstances may prove him equally wrong for failing to grab that extra southpaw reliever. He and Terry Collins obviously didn’t expect Edgin to have such a mess inside. When the MRI showed a bone chip actually splitting and de-stabilizing the ulnar collateral ligament, their thoughts went to the other lefties in camp — Scott Rice, Dario Alvarez, Sean Gilmartin and Jack Leathersich.
Their 11.48 ERA over 14 1/3 innings of work hasn’t exactly drawn wows from anybody. At least Rice and Alvarez have big-league experience with the Mets, but Rice’s 5.93 and Alvarez’ 13.50 ERAs from last year won’t generate a lot of confidence that either can get the job done.
The trade market figures to be slow as teams look to finalize their bullpens for the fast-approaching season. Alderson’s internal options are less than appetizing.
That leaves Alderson in a hope-for-the-best mode. He might have thought more about resting all his left-handed eggs in Edgin’s basket, but he failed to make that move.
It could come back to bite him. But at least he has something desirable in Gee if Wheeler’s elbow issues worsen.
Only the won-loss column will tell whether Alderson guessed right on two of his biggest unmade moves of the offseason.