With their decision makers gathered in Florida for offseason meetings, the time has come to discuss exactly what should be on the Mets’ offseason agenda. During the press conference Monday to announce manager Terry Collins‘ two year contract extension, general manager Sandy Alderson reiterated that the club plans to spend a significant amount of dollars on external players.
Alderson pointed out that unlike the last few offseasons, the Mets won’t be hampered by financial constraints. He didn’t dismiss the possibility of doling out a contract in excess of $100 million dollars, but noted at the same time that any contract that large would have to be going to someone who’s a near perfect fit for the club.
With that in mind, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York is reporting today that, according to a team insider, the Mets plan to follow the same model the Boston Red Sox followed last offseason – spend significant dollars on a number of external players, while not necessarily handing out a “mega-deal.”
Last offseason, the Red Sox spent roughly $100 million while handing out one to three year deals for seven players (Shane Victorino, Ryan Dempster, Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, David Ross, Mike Napoli, and Koji Uehara). Those players complemented the base of talent Boston already had, and the team went on to amass a record of 97-65 while winning the American League East.
Rubin spoke with Gorden Edes, who covers the Red Sox for ESPN Boston, and here’s some of what Edes had to say regarding Boston’s strategy:
The one thing you have to recognize is they didn’t necessarily go a cheap route. I mean, they overpaid for some of the guys that they signed. A lot of people mocked the three years, $39 million they gave to Victorino, for example. And they were going to give the same thing to Napoli until the hip condition surfaced. The biggest change was trying to avoid longer contracts in terms of years — the [Carl] Crawford seven-year commitment, [Adrian] Gonzalez seven-year commitment. Both blew up on them so badly. That was a big part of their strategy. They were willing to pay a few more bucks if that meant they could go shorter term.
If the Mets do indeed choose the same route the Red Sox chose last year, there will undoubtedly be fans who are upset that Alderson and ownership didn’t hand out a monster contract. As Edes points out above, though, those types of deals rarely work out.
It should also be pointed out that the Red Sox didn’t make any “big” trades last offseason – they had already completed their mega-trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers during the 2012 campaign. While the Mets may be going the Red Sox route as far as allocating significant dollars to quality free agents (while not handing out enormous contracts), they – unlike the Red Sox last offseason – are also planning to attempt to make a splash via trade.
If the Mets choose to emulate Boston’s model as far as their free agent strategy is concerned, what might that look like?
- The Mets want to upgrade the shortstop position: Since Ruben Tejada has underperformed and fallen out of favor with the club, the team is in need of someone to man shortstop. Wilfredo Tovar could be a backup who provides plus defense, but not a starter. Stephen Drew, who the Red Sox signed last offseason for 9.5 million, is a free agent. Drew, or perhaps Jhonny Peralta – a free agent who is coming off a PED suspension – could be a fit for the Mets.
- Sandy Alderson wants to add a solid starting pitcher: With the Matt Harvey situation still in flux, Sandy Alderson has stated numerous times that he wants to add a reliable starting pitcher this offseason. He noted that it likely wouldn’t be an “upper echelon” guy, meaning a free agent starter such as Ervin Santana is unlikely to wind up with the Mets. I’d guess the club will be interested in free agent starters such as Tim Lincecum, Scott Kazmir, and Tim Hudson. All three of those guys should command short term commitments and have the potential to be well above average.
- The outfield needs to be upgraded: It’s likely that the Mets will enter the 2014 campaign with defensive wizard Juan Lagares manning center field. Lagares’ offense is still developing, but the defense he provides in center field makes up for any struggles he’ll have at the plate. While there has been some suggestion that Eric Young, Jr. could be a starter in left field, I don’t think that’s likely. So, the Mets will need to add two outfielders from outside the organization. If the team doesn’t sign Shin-Soo Choo (who is said to be their top free agent target), they’ll likely scour the free agent market for second tier outfielders and explore a trade for an impact bat. Some players who may be on the Mets’ radar are Curtis Granderson, Nelson Cruz, and Corey Hart. There’s a bit of a red flag with each of those players, though. Granderson is 33 and his power won’t translate well, Cruz is coming off a PED suspension and is a poor defender, and Hart missed the entire 2012 campaign after having surgery on both of his knees. I could see the Mets taking a chance on one of the more high upside free agent outfielders, but I get the sense that they’ll look to acquire their “impact” outfielder via trade.
The Mets have a very solid base of talent in place. Offensively, they have four players (barring trades) who should be starters come 2014. Those players are David Wright, Travis d’Arnaud, Daniel Murphy, and Juan Lagares. First base will likely be worked out internally, but the Mets are also scouting Cuban first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu, who is free to sign with any club.
Starting pitching wise, even with Matt Harvey‘s status in question, the team should be fine. They have Jonathon Niese, Zack Wheeler, and Dillon Gee all penciled in to the 2014 rotation. If Alderson signs a free agent starter to complement those three and Matt Harvey undergoes Tommy John surgery, the fifth spot would likely become a battle between Jenrry Mejia, Rafael Montero, and an Aaron Harang type. Personally, I’d love Mejia to take the opportunity and run with it. If Harvey is healthy, though, there won’t be an opening. If one of their prized prospects (Montero or Noah Syndergaard) doesn’t break camp with the team, they’ll be in AAA Las Vegas looking to show the Mets they made a mistake by not carrying them from the outset – while providing high upside depth.
The bullpen should be the least of the Mets’ concerns at the moment. Bobby Parnell recently had surgery on a herniated disk, but should be ready well before spring training. With Parnell, Vic Black, and Jeurys Familia, the club has the makings of a very solid back-end of the bullpen. The Mets are also likely to bring back LaTroy Hawkins and Scott Rice. The other spots will very likely be filled from within – figure another reliever such as Gonzalez Germen, and a long-man spot starter (perhaps Carlos Torres).
The offseason rumors are likely to start cranking up right after the World Series ends, and I expect the Mets to be connected to a host of players. The club has made their intentions clear. They plan to spend a significant amount of dollars on external players – both via free agency and by potentially taking contracts on via trade. I expect the Mets to back those words up, and I anticipate that the expectation (from both the club and outsiders) going into 2014 will be that the Mets should contend. In the meantime, we wait.