Ricco: Teams are calling about the Mets starters, downplays need for a shortstop
The Mets are in a rare position this winter to not have an immediate need in their starting rotation. In fact, they continue to maintain a surplus among their starting pitching despite the likely departure of Bartolo Colon.
The industry has taken notice in the Mets surplus as well, so much so they’re fielding a lot of calls about their starters as the GM Meetings get underway in Boca Raton, Florida, assistant GM John Ricco said on Monday.
“Our guys are kind of a hot commodity right now,” Ricco explained.
Last week, Sandy Alderson said the Mets were uninterested in dealing from the top of their depth chart in the rotation, essentially meaning Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler were unlikely to be moved this winter.
In addition, the Mets are in need of finding solutions in the outfield, middle infield and bullpen, although Ricco downplayed the need to upgrade at shortstop this winter.
“We got to the World Series and [Wilmer Flores] and [Ruben Tejada] were a big part of what we did,” Ricco said.
Part of the motivation to stick with Flores and Tejada could be that there aren’t many appealing free agent shortstops available. There’s Ian Desmond, who arguably was mediocre at best defensively and was awful for half a season in Washington, and that’s basically that.
That’s not to say the position isn’t an issue. Their middle infield defense, especially at a premium position like shortstop, must improve. But is it their highest priority, and can they fill the need at second base easier than they can at shortstop? It’s certainly possible.
The Mets could conceivably entertain a trade for a middle infielder, but in prior off-seasons, that cost has typically been associated to one of their premier young arms, and the Mets have shown a continued reluctance to move any of them over the last couple of years.
And that stands to reason. One can argue Daniel Murphy and Curtis Granderson were big reasons for their successful run through the National League Championship Series, and in large measure that would be accurate.
But their pitching gave them a leg to stand on throughout the postseason, and it’s only going to get better and more mature with the passage of time, with no innings limits tied to any of them in 2016 and beyond.
The Mets could conceivably deal Zack Wheeler, as they’ve already tried to move him over the course of the last year. His name has popped up ins several trade scenarios since last winter as well, and it’s clear the Mets would move him under the right circumstances.
But recall, Wheeler phoned Alderson at the trade deadline and pleaded with him to not be traded. Alderson insisted that hit home with him and meant a lot to the organization.
And to have Wheeler coming back as a fifth starter at around the All-Star break isn’t the worst thing in the world, either. That provides instant depth and would automatically give the Mets another arm in the bullpen, as Jon Niese would likely transition back into a relief role, something he proved he could handle late in the year.
And the more pitching the club has, the better off they’re going to be even as they attempt to fortify their team up the middle this winter.