WASHINGTON -- At last year's non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Mets shocked many of their peers by holding onto Scott Hairston, a valuable asset who likely could have fetched a reasonable prospect in return. Citing both a desire to stay competitive and a dry market for Hairston, general manager Sandy Alderson stood pat at the Deadline. The Mets finished in fourth place regardless.
Though his team has been playing better of late, Alderson finds himself in a similar situation heading into this year's July 31 Deadline. With dim hopes of a playoff run, the Mets have one obvious trade candidate: outfielder Marlon Byrd, who has outperformed all expectations in a renaissance season. Byrd is 35 years old, under contract only through this year and currently enjoying one of the best campaigns of his life.
He could help a contender. He knows it. The Mets know it. But that does not necessarily mean they will trade him.
"We don't have anybody we have to move," Alderson said earlier this month. "What we've been trying to do for the last several years is stockpile talent, clear payroll with significant complications, and then be as competitive as we can possibly be without sacrificing Nos. 1 and 2. In order for us to sacrifice No. 3 [competitiveness], it has to be a material advantage in talent for us to do that.
"Is that going to happen?" Alderson added. "I don't know."
To be clear, trading Byrd at the Deadline is not the Mets' only potential transaction. They hold an even more desirable chip in closer Bobby Parnell, who is under team control for two more seasons, and enough bright young pitching prospects that they could package together for an impact outfielder or offensive prospect. But Alderson has already indicated that a move in either of those directions is unlikely.
The only possibility on which the GM has wavered on is trading Byrd. But as Hairston proved last year, that does not automatically mean that he will.
"I know if we make a deal, if Sandy moves somebody, it's in the best interests of our team," manager Terry Collins said. "Right now, Marlon Byrd is a huge piece. So if Marlon Byrd gets moved, we're going to get something good back, I can tell you."
In that sense, the only way this Trade Deadline seems different for the Mets is that for the first time in years, they do not feel pressure to make moves. Unlike when they traded Jeff Francoeur in a waiver deal in 2010, or Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez in pre-Deadline deals a year later, or even when they considered trading Hairston last season, the Mets in 2013 are looking at things from a more short-term perspective.
With starting pitchers Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler already entrenched in the rotation and several other promising young arms coming up through the system, the Mets feel they are closer to competing on an annual basis than they have been since the middle of last decade. So they will not do anything to disrupt their roster unless it makes sense for 2014 -- not for 2015, 2016 or beyond.
"What the plan has been since Sandy took over is to build up the organization, build up the Minor League system, get some of these young, talented guys up here," Collins said. "And I think it's coming to hold true."
How much the roster will transform at the Trade Deadline -- if at all -- remains to be seen. But with Alderson's plan so plain to see, do not expect any number trade talks or negotiations to change the team's thinking in the coming days.