Mets desperately need highest-paid stars to figure it out: Sherman

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If the Mets offered to trade Francisco Lindor or James McCann today and accept nothing back as long as the acquiring club took on their contracts, I do not believe a single team would be interested.

By the way, if given a mulligan, I think the Mets would reconsider signing McCann and, at least, signing Lindor without seeing him play in New York first.

Yes, it is just a quarter season, but that is how badly that quarter season has gone for the biggest investments of Steve Cohen’s first year as Mets owner. That the club nevertheless leads the NL East reflects depth, energy, greatly improved defense and a division with enough injuries and flaws that no team may be capable of breaking away.

The Mets actually are most equipped to create distance in the NL East if they can 1) get a lot healthier, 2) stay a lot healthier and 3) get a lot more from McCann and, especially, Lindor. A defibrillation for McCann and Lindor is vital now. They are two of the few able-body regulars as the Mets embark on a perilous phase of their schedule, when survival will be Step 1 considering they have been racking up MRIs at greater frequency than RBIs.

The Mets will follow their Thursday off-day having played three fewer games than any other team. But on Friday, they begin a period playing 17 straight days. And from June 11 until the first half ends on July 11, the Mets have one off-day and play 32 games in 33 days, with doubleheaders on June 19 and 25. Obviously, the Mets need to begin shrinking their MLB-high 13-player injured list. The pile up of games coming, though, emphasizes the need for the pitchers to return: Jacob deGrom, Taijuan Walker and season debuts for Carlos Carrasco, Noah Syndergaard and Seth Lugo.

In the short term – and the long too, considering the contractual obligations – the Mets also need a lot more from Lindor and McCann. At present, they are winning mostly in spite of that duo. The Mets are averaging just 3.51 runs per game, second worst in the majors to the Pirates. McCann and Lindor have combined to hit .195 with a .552 OPS.

McCann is not as worrisome because at four years, $40 million he is guaranteed more than eight times less than Lindor ($341 million). Also, because Tomas Nido is tempting Luis Rojas with a possibly better option. This has overtones of Kyle Higashioka cutting into Gary Sanchez’s catching time with the Yankees.

McCann’s bat became a factor the past two years as a member of the White Sox. But he remained susceptible against righty pitching and questions lingered if he could put an entire season together as a No. 1 catcher. He is hitting .202 with a .511 OPS. He nevertheless has been significant in an overall better defense that has been an underlying key to the Mets holding first place.

The Mets have underperformed their talent in recent years, and poor fielding has been central to that. But their defensive positioning and glove work have both been better this year. Defensive metrics still lag behind in accuracy, but that the Mets rank second in Defensive Runs Saved is numeric affirmation of an upgrade.

This is mentioned because I have been surprised not just at Lindor’s lack of offense, but that his defense has not been as good as his reputation. He has been fine, but not elite. And it reminds me of my initial impression of Roberto Alomar as a Met. Now, Alomar was older, but he had just finished fourth for the AL MVP in 2001 and, from a distance, he was perhaps the player I appreciated most for the roundedness of his game – offense, defense, baserunning and savvy. Yet, instantly with the Mets that excellence was absent and it was a disastrous stay for the switch-hitting middle infielder.

Again, Lindor is seven years younger. He is just 36 games into his Met career. But the overall brilliance seen from a distance has not manifested up close. It took another switch-hitter, Carlos Beltran, an uninspiring year in New York before he became one of the organization’s best position players ever. And he was far closer to Lindor’s age now. So maybe Lindor just needs time.

But one reason the 2005 Mets didn’t make the playoffs was that Beltran needed that year, which also included his gruesome collision with Mike Cameron. The Mets can win the NL East. The Braves are down at least a grade. The Phillies and Nationals are not as deep. The Marlins are still in build-up mode. The Mets are enduring the injuries because of surprises like the pitching (and bat) of Tommy Hunter, the defense of Khalil Lee and the clutch genes of Nido and Jonathan Villar. That all feels like it has a due date.

Which is why – with their schedule about to become arduous – the Mets needed better health and better results from their two big purchases of the offseason, especially Lindor.

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