NEW YORK – Jacob deGrom walked over to his locker at Yankee Stadium – the visiting locker room despite the rumors you may have heard or the wishes that Yankee fans might have gone to bed pleading for – and a crowd of reporters surrounded him. 

Jason Vargas watched the mob descend upon deGrom and he said casually to another Met walking by, “He just got traded.” It might have seemed that way, but it wasn’t the case – at least not yet. 

As the Mets and Yankees readied to begin the Subway Series, the teams were on decidedly different paths. While the Yankees are in the midst of a season as one of the best teams in Major League Baseball, they are desperately chasing down the rival Boston Red Sox, hoping to avoid a one-game Wild Card date, a desperation which has them performing due diligence on any player who might help them in that chase.

The Mets arrived at Yankee Stadium with a rotation of starting pitchers that could lift any franchise to another level, putting Noah Syndergaard in display Friday, Steven Matz Saturday and finally deGrom scheduled for Sunday. And they did it with an open mind to any deal which could turn around their misfortunes.

While deGrom and his agent, Brodie van Wagenen, made their position clear over the All-Star break, asking for the Mets to either provide a long-term contract extension or trade him to a team where he can find a home, the Mets are holding the cards right now. The 30-year-old righthander is not a free agent for two more years, meaning the Mets don’t actually have to do anything with their most valuable asset.

At the All-Star Game deGrom told reporters, “We’ve said multiple times that we are open to talking extensions. It’s up to them what they want to do.” And if the Mets don’t want to engage in those talks, deGrom noted, “Starting pitching is always big at the trade deadline, whether that’s me or someone else.”

That’s certainly true, a point he needed to look no further than across the diamond at the Yankees to find a team in search of help on the mound. The Yankees have a lineup that is the envy of nearly every team in baseball and a bullpen that is lights out, but in the starting rotation after Luis Severino there are an assortment of question marks. The Mets trio of front office executives running the show since Sandy Alderson took a leave of absence know that, too.

“We’ve talked with Brodie a little bit,” John Ricco said. “We certainly respect Jacob’s position, clearly. But we also have an obligation to do what’s best for the organization and whether that’s trading him, extending him or letting the contract play out, that’s what we have to keep in mind – what’s the best for the organization. 

“We’ll continue to have dialogue. Like I’ve said, we’ve talked to Brodie. Right now our focus is on the trade deadline and some of those things. We respect that position, but we have to keep our eye on what’s important, what’s the best thing for the organization.”

The Mets have to decide just how valuable the top of the rotation arms like deGrom and Syndergaard, not to mention the second tier of Matz and Zack Wheeler, are to the plans. Ricco was offering no assurances that even the aces would survive on the roster past the July 31 trade deadline.

“I don’t know that,” Ricco said. “The last time I met with you guys we said we were open to really anything that improved the club, including moving any of our players. While I don’t think that’s likely we still have a few weeks to go here and we’ll see. We’re looking at all ways to make this club better.”

The presence of these starting pitchers haven’t helped much as the Mets resumed the season with a 39-55 record – 28-54 since a mirage of a start to the season. So is it worth clinging to these arms if the franchise is still in free fall? Or should the Mets begin shifting to a future that is drastically different than the roster on hand right now?

Dealing deGrom or Syndergaard could net the sort of return that could remake a barren farm system. Dealing both of them could spin the entire organization – and the balance of power in the major leagues – on its axis.

“I think what we’ve seen from our team unfortunately clearly is not competitive,” Ricco said. “But I don’t know that we’ve seen our whole team out there for more than a short stretch at the early part of the season. Hopefully in the next few weeks – we’ll get (Yoenis Cespedes) back today, we’re going to get (Todd) Frazier and (Jay) Bruce back in the lineup.

“The way (Amed) Rosario has started to develop we have our young guys in (Brandon) Nimmo and (Michael) Conforto out there playing, one of the goals really for the end of the season or the rest of the season is be able to evaluate our club going into next year. And a big part of that is actually seeing the club play. Now I get injuries are part of the issue and we certainly understand that. But one of the things we need to know going in is what we have here and that’s what we’re looking to evaluate over the rest of the season.”

Bill Parcells would tell Ricco that the saying is you are what your record says you are, even if you have starting pitching that is in high demand. While it remains to be seen what the Mets could be if they were healthy, or if they could ever actually be healthy, deGrom and Syndergaard have shown what they are and can be. 

For his part, deGrom isn’t worrying about it. He said he doesn’t listen to the chatter or read the stories.

“When I leave here I have two kids and I don’t have much time to listen to sports talk radio,” he said.

Email: popper@northjersey.com

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