Sitting on the fringe of the playoff race, the Mets got rid of a potentially costly problem at closer when they sent Rodriguez and cash to the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night for two players to be named.
New York (46-45) is third in the NL East and 7½ games behind the wild card-leading Braves heading into the opener of its first post-All-Star break series on Friday against Philadelphia. And general manager Sandy Alderson said Wednesday the K-Rod trade doesn't change the Mets' status.
The Mets still have a strong bullpen, but now they've shifted payroll — to a team that is tied for the lead in its division.
"This certainly does not signify a change in direction from our continuing attempt to win games this season," Alderson said. "I certainly would not draw any conclusions from this transaction."
Alderson also said in a conference call he knows there is interest from other teams in acquiring players such as All-Stars Beltran and Reyes, but he plans to see how the next two weeks play out.
"Carlos' situation is well known to all teams," Alderson said. "Not surprisingly, given his situation as well as his performance this year, there has been a lot of interest."
There was plenty of interest in K-Rod, too. The Mets figured they could get more for him now than closer to the July 31 deadline for trading without waivers.
The 29-year-old Rodriguez is 2-2 with a 3.16 ERA and 23 saves, a year after a fracas with a family member at Citi Field led to his arrest, an injury and the early end of his season. He is a four-time All-Star and set the single-season saves record with 62 in 2008 with the Angels.
Rodriguez has a contract clause that guarantees him $17.5 million in 2012 if he finishes 55 games this year. The right-hander currently has finished 34 and is on pace to vest, though he may not get ample chances to do that with the Brewers.
"As far as where Frankie was in achieving his vesting option, I don't think that was a factor either," Alderson said. "I'm not suggesting that that whole option consideration was not a factor. It was one of many. But he certainly wasn't going to vest by the end of July."
Alderson said the Mets are helping Milwaukee cover "a substantial portion, but not all" of the roughly $8.4 million Rodriguez is due from them this year.
Rodriguez is in his 10th major league season. He is 32-27 with 291 saves and a 2.54 ERA with the Angels and Mets, who signed him as a free agent after his record-setting year when they figured their strongest need was a proven closer.
Now the Mets have a closer ready to replace K-Rod, likely Jason Isringhausen or Bobby Parnell. What they need is the bats of David Wright (stress fracture in lower back) and Ike Davis (bone bruise in his ankle) back in the lineup.
That still may not be enough.
"Ike is some time away," Alderson said. "We expect to have David back by the deadline."
Stats website baseballprospectus.com gave the Mets a less than two percent chance to make the postseason before play resumed on Thursday. New York came out of the All-Star break within three games of eight other NL teams — though Milwaukee and St. Louis are tied atop the NL Central — and has 16 games left this month.
"We're obviously at a delicate point as far as wins and losses," Alderson said. "In some sense, it's not just our 10 percent of the season, but it's reflected in the seasons of seven or eight different teams."
Rick Freeman can be reached at twitter.com/RWFreeman.