MIAMI — After a four-day break from the grind, harsh reality beckons the Mets on Friday.
Once a team that had designs on competing for the postseason, this disappointing bunch will begin the second half closer to last place than third in the NL East and wondering who among the group is about to play in his final game or games with the Mets.
“Hopefully we don’t lose too many guys, but it’s just the nature of the game,” Michael Conforto said, referring to the July 31 trade deadline. “I have been through it and it always sucks losing guys that we start the year with, but it’s part of the game and we’ve put ourselves in that position.”
The Mets (30-40) will start the second half with a 5.4 percent playoff probability, according to Fangraphs. So there is a chance, just not one great enough to warrant retaining tradable assets that could be lost in the offseason without a return.
At the top of that list is Zack Wheeler, an impending free agent who has pitched to mixed results for the Mets this season. But the list also includes Todd Frazier and Jason Vargas, neither of whom is locked in for next season. Frazier is a free agent and the 36-year-old Vargas has a club option in his contract that can be bought out for $2 million if the Mets want to head in a younger and less expensive direction. Vargas’ option for 2020 is worth $8 million.
Among players with guaranteed contracts or under club control for next season, the Mets could consider dealing Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz and Wilson Ramos, but an industry source indicated the team would likely have to be overwhelmed by a trade proposal to move either of the pitchers.
Syndergaard is under club control through 2021 and the Mets don’t appear in any hurry to sell low on a pitcher who has disappointed with a 4.68 ERA this season. Matz is under club control for the next two seasons and is scuffling with a 4.89 ERA.
Ramos arrived on a two-year contract worth $19 million last offseason, but his deterioration behind the plate has club officials wondering if there might be an American League team willing to take him. But it could be a hard sell unless the Mets are willing to take on a significant remainder of his contract.
The Mets will begin play six games ahead of the Marlins for last place in the NL East. The third-place Phillies are seven games ahead of the Mets. And as much as the Mets would like to think the Marlins are potential prey this weekend, it’s worth noting Miami swept three games between the teams at Marlins Park in May.
“We had high hopes starting out the year and we haven’t played to our potential,” Conforto said. “I think we had some opportunities early to gain some ground and we just didn’t play well enough.”
Before the series opener, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen is expected to convene with the media and offer his first state of the team address since he took questions last month following the firing of pitching coach Dave Eiland and bullpen coach Chuck Hernandez. Since those moves the Mets are 5-11, which has included two brutal ninth-inning implosions by closer Edwin Diaz. The Mets haven’t won a series since taking two of three from the Rockies from June 7-9.
“I will never doubt on this team,” Robinson Cano said. “We have the right pieces. We just have to come together as a team with the offense, defense and pitching. I will never doubt this team until the last day.”