What are the Mets clinging to, exactly?
Tuesday afternoon's nonwaiver trading deadline came and went, and the Mets stood still.
The team's general manager, Sandy Alderson, had publicly disabused anyone of the notion that the Mets were sellers, especially after the team lost 14 of 16 to fall out of playoff contention.
But with the deadline approaching, the Mets had an obvious asset to trade: Scott Hairston, the right-handed hitting outfielder who crushed two home runs on Monday night.
Hairston is the nemesis of left-handed pitchers the world over, with an O.P.S. of .945 against them in 2012. Among outfielders with 100 plate appearances against lefties this year, that ranked Hairston eighth in all of baseball. Among those ahead of him, only Shane Victorino of the Phillies was available, and he went to the Dodgers for reliever Josh Lindblom, reliever Ethan Martin, a player to be named later and cash. If Victorino's defensive reputation improved the return a little, the difference in salaries--$9.5 million for Victorino in 2012, $1.1 million for Hairston--should have more than made up for that gap.
There may not be anything general manager Sandy Alderson could have done, given the fact that the Mets' debt-plagued owners aren't giving him any money to spend.
But the non-move will hardly do anything to improve relations with the fans, after a winter when payroll dropped $50 million and the team's most popular player, Jose Reyes, was allowed to sign elsewhere. The Mets' assurances that a plan is in place now seem deeply cynical.
Holding onto Hairston is especially puzzling, because he is a free agent after 2012. Had the Mets wanted to bring him back, they could simply have traded him to a contender for something useful in the future, then signed him this winter. Keeping him for a lost 2012 season only makes sense if Hairston has communicated to the Mets that he won't re-sign with them if traded, or if they expect to sign him to a below-market deal between now and the end of the season.
Otherwise, the value of owning Scott Hairston's contract through 2012 ends in ... 2012. They've avoided making a move that would have given them some value for the future, even if it turned out to be an A-ball pitcher with a live arm, an effective lottery ticket, that is more useful to the Mets than holding onto their dollar that's about to disintegrate.
The Mets were wise not to be buyers this deadline. The flip side of that equation ought to be selling assets that only help them in 2012. Scott Hairston was a perfect example of that. And the onus is on the Mets now to show some value from Hairston beyond a few home runs in meaningless August games.
Alderson quote from the post-deadline conference call: "Right now he's a very important part of our team. We feel it's important to keep 2012 as competitive as possible."