Mets’ Winter Meetings Focus to be the Outfield, But How?


To break from the David Wright news, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reported yesterday Sandy Alderson’s main focus at the Winter Meetings in Nashville next week will be to add two right-handed bats to the outfield. After that, the priorities remain to add a right-handed hitting catcher, followed by some bullpen help. What’s surprising is how the Mets are planning to fill these needs. Before the off-season hit, Alderson said he wanted to have a significant roster turnover to bring in productive players. With limited spending, Sandy was planning on doing so by trade instead of the free agency market. Now, not so much.

It looks as though the Mets will once again be changing their tune, as Rubin states they will be operating under the fact that they won’t come into Nashville with guns blazing, ready to make some trades. The biggest trade chips the organization has is within the depth of their starting pitching, but a source has said their rotation is set for 2013, unless someone comes in and blows them away with a package. So, that means we’ll likely see R.A. Dickey, Johan Santana, Jonathon Niese, Matt Harvey, and Dillon Geeheading out to the mound every five days.

February 24, 2012; Port St Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and generla manager Sandy Alderson chat Michigan coaches in attendance at spring training workouts at Digital Domain Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE

The obvious need for the Mets is some right-handed hitting. Scott Hairston is testing the free agent market, but New York isn’t ruling out re-signing the outfielder, or bringing back Kelly Shoppach for that matter. In regards to the bullpen, Rubin notes that the team is aware they likely need to sign two relievers, but there are more internal options in this respect, mainly talking about Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, Josh Edgin, and Robert Carson.

Needless to say, this report makes me furious. I understand that plans change and front office executives say one thing and do another (remember when Jason Bay had no chance of being cut?), but this is just the latest change in thinking, and I have a feeling it’s coming from over Sandy Alderson’s head.

At the end of the season, he clearly seemed frustrated with the kind of players that occupied the Mets 40-man roster, and was talking about making wholesale changes. With the 2013 payroll dominated by Bay and Johan Santana, they wouldn’t be able to make big, multi-year splashes in the free agent market, so they would have to explore the trade market. This makes a lot of sense; the Mets have a good amount of young talent, both on the mound and at the plate, that could bring back some MLB-caliber talent, if packaged appropriately. With 2014 being the year most team executives feel this team can legitimately compete, I’d rather watch them make some trades to improve the team now, then dip into free agency strategically next winter for the final pieces of the puzzle when they have more payroll flexibility.

Deferring part of the remaining money on Bay’s deal has allowed for some more flexibility this winter, but Alderson certainly didn’t make it sound like much. However, Rubin’s source told him it could have alleviated enough pressure to allow New York to sign a free agent to a multi-year deal. They wouldn’t be one of the top tier of available players, like Michael Bourn, but they won’t be scraping the bottom of the barrel, either.

So, when we look at the outfield, the subtraction of Bay and Andres Torres (by Friday) leaves Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mike Baxter, and Jordany Valdespin. With this part of the roster to be the top priority, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the multi-year deal appear here. If a center fielder can be found to push Captain Kirk and Duda to the corners, that would be preferred. The only second tier free agent I would be OK with the Mets offering a multi-year deal to is Shane Victorino, but that’s even stretching it.

On the other hand, there’s still a chance Hairston will return, bringing the outfield to a look similar to 2012. Behind the plate, Shoppach may return, which means that will look exactly the same. For the bullpen, I never thought it would need much external help, mostly because New York has already shed the most unproductive ones via releases and free agency (outside of Frank Francisco). With a strong winter to follow his solid 2012 campaign, I think Greg Burke is going to become an important piece of the relief corp, and Alderson should only look to sign one more southpaw with experience (I’d prefer Randy Choate).

So, this “roster turnover” is shaping up to be more of the same roster from last season. The Blue Jays have the best chance of swinging a deal with the Amazins, only because both their needs match up, they spent a lot of time together at the GM Meetings, and J.P. Ricciardi has deep knowledge of their farm system. Then again, who knows what the heck will happen.

Who knows why I’m so frustrated by this; probably the combination of the “inaccurate” reports regarding the Wright negotiations and the slow moving nature of talks for Dickey already had me a little testy, with this new plan of action to fill the roster being the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I know it takes a while to make significant moves, but my patience is wearing thin, and I need to see some sort of actual progress and commitment toward the future before I lose it.