Every year the Winter Meetings poses the most promising time for teams to come together in one place and discuss all things baseball, the most popular aspect being the movement of players. Teams have been established and broken at the meetings over the years, and this year, the New York Mets hope to move toward contention, or at least lay the ground work for later moves. First off, let’s take a look at what the team hopes to accomplish over the remainder of the off-season.
New York Mets Off-Season to do list
- Acquire a right handed bat for the bench, preferably one with some power
- Trade one of either Dillon Gee, Jon Niese, or Bartolo Colon
- Acquire an upgrade at shortstop
- Acquire a left-handed reliever
Now, let’s take a look at the more likely scenarios first. Eric Campbell provided a great option for the Mets off of the bench last year with both his ability to pinch hit and play multiple defensive positions. Campbell posted a .263/.322/.358 line in 2014 with 3 homeruns in 211 plate appearances. That is a more than exceptional batting line for a bench utility player, so you may ask why they want to add another righty bat for the bench. There is one problem with Campbell’s stats from last season. He hit just 3 homeruns. Over the last couple of seasons, as Sandy Alderson has tried to lay the ground work of a rebuilding team to be successful in the future, one thing has been valued more than anything else with offensive player, and that is power. So even though Campbell played very well last season and I fully expect him to have the same role going in to 2015, I also believe that the Mets will add someone to the bench with the ability to take the ball out of the park more consistently.
Now, let’s take a look at who may be on the radar. Kyle Blanks and Jonny Gomes are the two names that I hear most associated with the Mets when talking about an addition to the bench. Blanks has shown some marginal pop in his career, especially in the minor leagues, and Gomes does have a 20 homerun season under his belt. Blanks figures to be the most likely option in my opinion, but don’t be surprised to see the Mets acquire the bat they are looking for as an extra piece in a trade versus free agency as it could go either way.
The Mets also would like to acquire a left-handed relief pitcher to pair with Josh Edgin in the bullpen. In this case I fully expect the acquisition to come via free agency. Sandy Alderson has been quoted in saying that the Mets would prefer only a 1 year deal when signing a reliever, so that narrows the options a bit. The club has been linked to Craig Breslow quite a bit this offseason, as well as names like Joe Thatcher and Wesley Wright. Breslow seems the most likely candidate, although the more popular choice with fans would be a guy like Wesley Wright, who could get a multi-year deal. This need in particular is something I wouldn’t be surprised to see the makes address at the meetings this week.
This is the position Mets fans have been talking about for years, ever since Jose Reyes was lost in free agency. The Mets have been linked to names like Troy Tulowitzki and Starlin Castro, and while both possibilities seem like matches made in heaven given the need of pitching by both the Cubs and Rockies and the Mets surplus of arms, the asking price is said to be astronomical on both players. The baseline of any deal would require one or more of the Mets’ “Big 4” pitchers who consists of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard. The problem with this is that the Mets plan to use these pitchers for their own team and any of them are considered to be virtually untouchable. In the case of Tulowitzki, it would likely take 2 of the above mentioned names as well as other prospects from the Mets system, which simply is not something the team is prepared to do.
So who could it be? The team could go in the direction of newly available and former All-Star Everth Cabrera, who is a bounce back candidate after being non-tendered by the Padres, but Cabrera does come with some off the field baggage as well as a suspension for PEDs. Other options include guys like the Mariners’ Chris Taylor and Brad Miller. Miller would be the more likely candidate of the two. Other Free-Agent options include names like Jed Lowrie, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Stephen Drew. But the Mets don’t seem very keen on any of those options, mainly because of the dark horse in all of this, Wilmer Flores. Flores did well for the Mets last season when finally given an opportunity to play every day. He produced a .251/.286/.378 line with 6 home runs in 274 at-bats. While not All Star caliber numbers, Flores did come on late last season and presents an in-house option where no money nor prospects would have to be spent, although his defense is a minus. Flores demolished minor league pitching for years, and many would say that he deserves his chance.
Trading a pitcher
To me, this is the most interesting of all the cases I have presented. The Mets are in a tricky situation with their excess of pitching. In a time where the pitching market is log jammed in free agency with guys like Jon Lester, James Shields, and Max Scherzer weighing their options, and lesser arms also aplenty on the market, the Mets have 7 starting pitchers they expect to contribute this season, and obviously just 5 spots. The solution? Wait out the market, and attempt to trade the pitcher that gives them the best combination of salary relief and a return in terms of players. The most likely candidate to be traded is Jon Niese, at age 28 and a career 3.87 ERA, Niese has a very team friendly contract that he signed in 2012 making 25 million dollars over 5 years with a team option for 2017. Niese is not the type of frontline starter that a guy like Lester or Scherzer is expected to be, but is a very consistent pitcher who get ground balls and can be an effective week in and week out. The biggest concern over Niese is his dropped fastball velocity as well as injury concerns surrounding his shoulder which have flared up from time to time. As far as interest goes, teams such as the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Cubs, and Mariners to name a few could be in the market for a guy like Niese once the market plays out some. It is worth noting that last off-season the Mets offered up a Jon Niese for Brad Miller deal that the Mariners declined.
Summing it up
It is believed that the Mets main priorities remain trading a pitcher and acquiring a shortstop upgrade over Wilmer Flores, but it is likely that the team will wait until January for a shortstop and possibly to move a pitcher with the snail’s pace that the pitching market is developing at. There is no doubt that Sandy Alderson and his team will be patient and be sure to get adequate value no matter what move they make. Expect the Mets to be active this week at the Winter Meetings in San Diego, even if no moves are made.