In 2006, Omar Minaya dealt starting rightfielder Xavier Nady at the trade deadline in a panic move to find a replacement for injured Duaner Sanchez. Now there are reports that the upcoming trade deadline may see the Mets move the player who has been their starting rightfielder most of this year, Jeff Francoeur. Depending on what the Mets can get in return, it could be another panic move.
A month ago, Francoeur was seen as one of the main reasons the Mets had better chemistry than they had had in years. His arm contributed to the Mets being much stronger defensively, which has help the pitching staff exceed expectations.
Francoeur has been up and down at the plate, but he did bat .310 with an .801 OPS in June, when the Mets were winning their way into contention.
Once Carlos Beltran returned, the Mets had four outfielders for three spots. Angel Pagan was having the best season, by a wide margin, but Jerry Manuel decided to go by past performance and salary and initially reduced Pagan to a platoon role with Francoeur.
Manuel also installed Beltran in center field, despite his bulky knee brace and the fact that Pagan was doing a great job in center, and batted Beltran cleanup even though he had been out for a full year.
Last year, when Billy Wagner returned after being sidelined for a long time, he was eased back into action, not thrown right back into the closer role. This year, Wagner has returned to being one of the best closers in baseball.
A healthy Carlos Beltran playing up to his great ability could be the best player on the Mets. I hope Beltran regains that form as soon as possible. But until he does, he should be playing right field and batting fifth or sixth.
Jason Bay's first half was far from a complete disaster, except for the lack of power. He hit .275 with an OPS of .801 through June 30.
But in July, Bay is batting .169 in July with an OPS of .466. Francoeur's July has been even worse - .114 batting average with a .329 OPS.
Right now, both Bay and Francoeur deserve to be losing playing time. And Beltran should be easing his way back to fulltime duty. The Mets should be rotating all three, giving each of them a couple of days off each week, while hoping that one of them catches fire.
In the long run, Bay is a much better player than Francoeur. But this season, Francoeur has had a couple of hot streaks, while Bay has had none. In 2010, is Bay any more likely to go on a hot streak than Francoeur?
Even if Francoeur ends up on the bench, the Mets could use the outfield depth. Beltran is just back from a serious injury. Before this season, Pagan was very injury-prone. Bay is over 30. If someone gets hurt and there's no Francoeur, do you really want to see Chris Carter playing fulltime (so much for defense) or Jesus Feliciano called back up?
As for chemistry, that's not enough to keep Francoeur on the team if he is not producing on the field. And maybe his chemistry isn't so great when he's on the bench. Alex Cora is supposed to bring chemistry, but that doesn't mean the Mets are better off with him in the lineup. Likewise, if Beltran and Castillo produce, that will be all the chemistry they need.
Maybe what's messing with chemistry is the Mets' unwillingness to play players based on merit, going back to the beginning of the year, when John Maine and Oliver Perez were in the rotation and Mike Jacobs and Gary Matthews Jr. were in the starting lineup.
Now Beltran is hitting cleanup and playing center, Ollie is back on the team, Francoeur could be traded, and the most people think the Mets's biggest problem is pitching when the team can't hit.
Trading Francoeur for a mediocre starter could make the team worse.
At least the Mets kept Josh Thole - now they just have to get back to having two catchers like most other teams.
As for rumors that Manuel's job is in jeopardy, someone should take the fall for all the strange decisions going on with this team. But are they Manuel's alone, or is someone telling him to play the high-priced players whether or not they are productive?