On a team-by-team level, this is maddening; if everyone is a contender, then no one is. Teams that have struggled to find .500 are, at least in theory, just one or two pieces away from making the crucial leap. The Royals proved last year that once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen, leaving fans of fringe-contending teams to shout "Don't just stand there, DO SOMETHING!"
Thanks to the object lesson that is the New York Mets, we can see just how flawed that logic is. They traded High-A starter Casey Meisner for A's reliever -- and free-agent-to-be -- Tyler Clippard. Cue Keith Law's response:
Charitably, the Mets made themselves better when they acquired Clippard and they did so by trading talent from a position of strength, and at least they struck while the iron was hot, right? Flags Fly Forever!
Law's point, and he's probably correct here, is that not all action -- even that which makes you better in the short run -- is good.
The Mets' bullpen isn't great, but it's also not their most glaring weakness. It sits at or slightly above average in most categories (K/9, BB/9, FIP, and WAR most notably), and while having a shutdown bullpen makes the playoffs less stressful, the Mets' decidedly sub-par offense still may keep them from ever getting there. If the Mets determined that Meisner had more value as a trade piece than he did in their organization, which seems objectively true, they still misused him and received too little value in return. Having a large collection of quarters doesn't make trading five of them for a dollar a good idea.
I'll leave the actual evaluation of Meisner to the professionals. He's a 20-year-old in High-A, meaning he still has the full range of possibilities ahead of him: His could be a cautionary tale for years to come when he becomes a star (like Wilson Ramos or Carlos Santana) or a complete non-factor (ala Deolis Guerra or literally dozens of other pitchers league-wide).
Twins fans should take the Mets' move as a cautionary tale, since there's a parallel between someone like Meisner and someone like Max Kepler, who is showing good production in the low minors, but who may be blocked on his path to the majors. Or, more pointedly, who may have more value outside the Twins organization than in it. He could be used to bring talent into a squad that sorely needs it, but unless they can get fair-market value or above for him, the Twins are better off keeping Kepler and waiting for a calmer trading period to emerge.
Fortune favors the bold, especially with so many teams in the mix for a fixed number of playoff spots, but for a team at the very beginning of its contending window like the Twins are, sometimes