NEW YORK — David Robertson was warming up in the Mets bullpen in the eighth inning of a tie game with the Washington Nationals on Thursday night. The tarp went onto the field, the rain came, and the Mets’ closer was gone.
The Mets front office made it clear its intentions to sell at the trade deadline as they shipped Robertson to the Miami Marlins for minor-league infielder Marco Vargas and catcher Ronald Hernandez in the midst of a rain delay late in the night.
“We were faced with where our club was at this time of the season, and I’ve had a number of inquiries on our players,” Mets general manager Billy Eppler said. “We were listening, and in this circumstance the value of the players that we acquired kind of exceeded our expectations and so we executed it.”
Robertson, who signed a one-year, $10 million deal in the offseason, was one of the Mets’ top trade pieces on the table. In 40 games this season, the 38-year-old right-hander stepped in for an injured Edwin Diaz and notched 14 saves, while posting a 4-2 record with a 2.05 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 48 strikeouts in 44 innings.
In return, the Mets netted the 18-year-old Vargas, the Marlins’ No. 18 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and the 19-year-old Hernandez, the team’s No. 21 prospect. Both players are on the Marlins’ Florida Complex League team.
The move signaled the Mets front office’s intentions to continue to fortify the organization’s youth ranks before the Aug. 1 trade deadline.
“We’re just listening, and I think we can kind of gauge signals from other clubs,” Eppler said. “If the signals are strong enough, we have to look for opportunities. “
“Our farm system’s got a way to go. We’ve had some drafts that I think a lot of people feel good with, but we have to just continue to add. If we’re gonna go where we need to go in the long-term, we’re going to need an upper-tiered farm system.”
The move also drove home how steeply the Mets have fallen short of expectations this season. Robertson said that when he signed, he believed he would be competing for the division. After Thursday’s 2-1 win over the Nationals, the Mets moved to 48-54, 17 games back of the Braves in the NL East and seven games back of the final wild card spot.
“Obviously with Robertson, we all know that he’s been unbelievable this year, and so if we were going to go the selling route, we knew that he would be one of the guys to go,” Brandon Nimmo said after the game. “Obviously you hate to see guys leave and leave in the situation that this is where we didn’t even come close to expectations. Again, it’s a hard pill to swallow, but one that we’ve known is a possibility here for a little bit.”
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Robertson said following the game that he felt a move was coming down the chute but did not exactly know where.
It is the second straight season that the 15-year veteran has been traded at the deadline after being moved from the Cubs to the Phillies last season.
“It’s not been the funnest part of the year, that’s for sure,” Robertson said. “No offense to you guys but when you come in here and everybody’s asking where you’re going and what are your thoughts, it’s a lot to deal with and still go out there and compete in between the lines knowing that you may not be on this team for very long.
“I’ve just tried to deal with it and stay calm and collected and make pitches and do what I’m what I’m supposed to do on the team that’s paying me to play for them.”
That limbo has become the reality for a number of Mets players, notably players on shorter-term or expiring deals like Mark Canha and Tommy Pham, as the deadline approaches. The first domino fell on Thursday night to prove which direction the Mets front office is headed.
“I’m only human, so yeah, it’s in the back of my mind,” Canha said, “but it doesn’t really do me any good to think about it or you try to just keep it in the back of your mind and stay focused on playing every day.”
The Mets’ core understands the need to play better. They still feel there is an opportunity in front of them. But now they must grapple with the reality that they may lose some of their key cogs the coming days.
“They can call it ‘selling,’ but I don’t think in the clubhouse it’s going to be one of those it’s we’re like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re done,'” Francisco Lindor said.
“With this group, I don’t see it happening like that,” Lindor added. “Until we are in a position where we’re not in reach of the playoffs or if we’re within reach of the playoffs, it’s going to be one of those until it happens, it won’t be part of our mindset. However, you only hope when they do make trades, we turn out on the better side of it.”