Due to the rather barren nature of this free agent market and the huge drop off of talent between Holliday, Bay, Lackey, and maybe Figgins some of the important moves need to be made through trade. There's been a lot of talk recently about possible three way trades between the Mets, Cubs, and Toronto/Texas but both have been dismissed as mere speculation. There will be some huge names available, such as Roy Halladay and Adrian Gonzalez. Some wishful thinking names will be thrown around the hot stove, like Felix Hernandez, Prince Fielder, and Carl Crawford. There's also going to be some other decent options such as Josh Johnson, Curtis Granderson, and Edwin Jackson. Each of these players would do a lot of good for the Mets but the question is: do the Mets have the talent to acquire these players?
The Mets have started to develop a decent, but not great, system in recent years. Wilmer Flores, Jenrry Mejia, Brad Holt, Ike Davis, Josh Thole, Reese Havens, Juan Uriba, and, yes, even Fernando Martinez all project to be decent to very good players. The problem with the Mets system is that it's so top heavy. These players are essentially all the Mets have. Any trade the Mets make using their prospects will essentially gut the system. That's it. They'd have to start completely over again, change their minor league development philosophy again, and move on from there. It's not a decision that a team in turmoil wants to make.
If you look through baseball, the teams with the most success recently are teams that let their prospects develop. The two Florida teams are the perfect example of this. The Rays were terrible for years (bringing in people like Wade Boggs and Jose Canseco) but once their philosophy changed and started developing the great prospects they were drafting they ended up in the World Series in 2008 and was mostly competitive this season. The Marlins have won two World Series Championships through developing young talent and once they become too expensive, they get traded away for more young talent. The Mets can't do that but these are two great examples of why you can't gut your system and hope for the best.
Trading the core players isn't an option because they're the best players you have. Trading someone like Wright or Reyes would be quite possibly the biggest mistake this team ever made. Maybe a little better than Tom Seaver but still an absolutely terrible decision. What kind of talent could you get back for someone like Wright or Reyes anyway? If you're trading them for someone like, say Halladay, you're giving up one of your best offensive players for one or two almost guaranteed good years but then you're getting into the age danger zone. Wright and Reyes are still so young that unless you're getting a king's ransom of prospects there's no reason to even consider trading either.
On the other hand, outside of maybe Luis Castillo, there is no one on the Mets worth even talking about. There is no trading value in Daniel Murphy, Jeff Francoeur, or even John Maine and Oliver Perez. The only option is to trade Castillo which actually wouldn't be all that terrible. He's one knee injury from being out of baseball and considering his slugging was barely higher than his on base percentage he's not making good contact. Shipping Castillo off and signing someone like, say, Orlando Hudson, would be a great decision. I know that the Mets are going to try as hard as they can to trade Castillo for something but even if the Mets end up doing a Milton Bradley for Castillo swap even that wouldn't be a terrible decision. I've said in a previous article that I don't believe that Bradley would be a good fit in New York but I've softened that stance a little bit. I think he was treated very unfairly by the Chicago fans and media but who knows if he'll be able to survive in New York. However, purely on paper, it's not a bad trade for either side. The malcontent outfielder is out of the area, and the resurgent 2B who may or may not be made out of paper mache gets out of New York. It's win-win for both sides.
I think the majority of the moves this off season will be with non-tendered players, guys like Miguel Olivo. There are usually some diamonds in the rough when it comes to non-tenders. Some non-tenders in previous years include David Ortiz, Jayson Werth, Rick Ankiel, Ryan Franklin, David Eckstein, and Chad Durbin all guys who have had sizable and sustained impacts with their teams. Many players haven't been non-tendered yet so it's hard to analyze that but there will be some decent players on that list. If the story is true that the Mets don't want to make a big splash this off season and wait until 2011 (when people like Joe Mauer, Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Adam Dunn, Cliff Lee, Brandon Webb will be available) then it might be a good idea to look at non-tenders for some above replacement production and then spend heavily next year.
That may end up being the very solution to the Mets' situation, as long as Mets fans are comfortable in losing next year. It's the baseball Modest Proposal: tanking this year to find success in the future. I think at this point, it would be wise to accept it.