Its only been five weeks since the last time the Mets played a baseball game, but the club has spent those five weeks looking for ways to get over the top of the mountain and win the 2016 World Series, exactly 30 years after their last championship.
They will begin to do so at the Winter Meetings which technically begin tomorrow morning at the at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee.
The Mets are already projected to have a $92-95 million in payroll for 2016 with players currently under contract, projected salaries through arbitration, and players earning the league minimum. That’s all without adding new talent.
And the Mets need to add and replenish some of the talent lost on the big league roster.
Yoenis Cespedes, Jerry Blevins, Eric O’Flaherty, Bartolo Colon, Bobby Parnell, Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, Tyler Clippard, and Daniel Murphy are all free agents.
The Mets added OF Brandon Nimmo, RHP Seth Lugo, and RHP Robert Gsellman to the 40-man roster in late November to protect them from the Rule 5 draft, which takes place Thursday morning at the Winter Meetings. They did not protect Matt Bowman or Wuilmer Becerra, so they could conceivably taken in the Rule 5 draft by other teams.
The 40-man roster currently stands at 39.
The Mets have already signed RHP Jim Henderson, RHP Stolmy Pimentel and infielder Ty Kelly to minor league contracts, but have yet to sign anyone to a Major League deal this winter.
That could change this week, as team insiders insist they will be active in their attempt to fortify the roster this week in Nashville.
However, the front office will be missing a key presence to their contingent in Nashville this week, as Sandy Alderson will stay in New York as he undergoes treatment for cancer.
Instead, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon will join assistant GM John Ricco, manager Terry Collins, Vice President, Player Development & Amateur Scouting Paul DePodesta, and special assistant JP Ricciardi as the continent for the Mets at the Winter Meetings.
The Mets have identified three primary needs as they head to the Winter Meetings, with hopes their activity can lead to solutions as they look ahead to Spring Training.
Their goal is to lengthen their lineup by improving their contact rate, reducing their strikeouts, and lengthening their lineup with a greater ability to get on-base.
They also want to create a lockdown formula in their bullpen, and improve their overall defense behind their championship-caliber starting pitching, the latter they hope will make them more efficient and lengthen their outings.
Here’s a look at how the Mets hope to reach those goals this winter… (more…)
While the Mets offseason has been centered around free agent infielder Ben Zobrist up until this point, that doesn’t mean the team isn’t eying other options at other positions.
In July, the Mets expressed interest in acquiring OF Gerardo Parra in a deal with the Brewers, and at one point were considering a deal before eventually calling up Michael Conforto and turning to the Braves to acquire Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe.
But the Mets have renewed interest in Parra this winter, now that he’s a free agent. But there’s competition in the field for Parra’s services, inclusive of the Orioles, the team who acquired him mid-year.
According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN, Baltimore has an interest in bringing the former gold glover back into the fold. But the Orioles are interested on a limited basis, as they’re only interested in a deal of up to two years.
That could bode well for the Mets, if they are interested in Parra beyond that term. But that remains unclear at this time.
Parra is a tremendous defensive player and had a breakout year in 2015 at the plate, setting a career high with 14 home runs, a .517 slugging percentage, OPS+ of 139 and 247 total bases. Parra is also a phenomenal defensive player.
Parra struggled at the plate after being traded from the Brewers to the Orioles, but again he otherwise had a fabulous year at the plate. But if the Mets were to acquire him, it’s hard to imagine he could replicate his production from this past season in the pitcher-friendly National League East, although defense never slumps and again, he is a fantastic outfielder.
Parra is not a natural fit in centerfield, having played the bulk of his career in both corner outfield spots. It’s also not clear he would want to shift positions and be in a platoon at age 28. There are certainly more natural fits for him elsewhere on the market, and if he can get a 3-4 year deal with those teams, it seems logical for him to pursue those opportunities.
But Parra is not tied to draft compensation for the Mets or any other interested team who might want to sign him.
In addition to the Orioles and Mets, the Royals have expressed interest in Parra so far this winter.
–Originally posted November 7, 2015–
The Mets have several needs to fill ahead of the 2016 season, and Sandy Alderson has already said he wants to address such needs and not depend so heavily on their starting pitching for a chunk of the season, as was the case in 2015.
Alderson has said the offense needs to be re-shaped, the bullpen needs work, and in recapping the World Series, he said their defense was lackluster as well.
In addition, the Mets need to improve their speed team-wide.
Assuming both Yoenis Cespedes and Daniel Murphy depart, the Mets will have two glaring vacancies at the top of their depth chart: one in the outfield and one on the infield.
The Mets do have Juan Lagares, a Gold Glove caliber center fielder who proved capable of hitting left-handed pitching in 2015 – he posted a .771 OPS in 132 plate appearances against southpaws this past season.
But he struggled mightily against the right side, posting just a .599 OPS in 333 plate appearances against right-handed pitching in 2015.
So the Mets need to decide if Lagares should be in a platoon or simply convert him into a fourth outfielder. He’s under contract for $2.5 million in 2016 as part of a $22.5 million extension he signed last March, a worthy consideration in the decision-making process.
The question is, after surrendering their first-round pick in the 2015 draft for signing Michael Cuddyer last winter, would the Mets be willing to relinquish a first-round pick in the 2016 draft to sign a free agent who received a qualifying offer? For an organization which prides itself on building from within, it might not be prudent for them to lose a second consecutive opportunity in the first round of the amateur draft.
The Mets will get a pick in the compensation portion of the 2016 draft if Murphy departs, thanks to making him a $15.8 million qualifying offer. They will not receive a compensation pick for Cespedes if he leaves, however, as he cannot be made a qualifying offer due to his mid-season acquisition.
Having said that, there are plenty of options for the Mets to consider which would help them improve their speed, defense, reduce the number of strikeouts, and maintain their power.
Here’s a look at several free agent outfielders the Mets might consider signing this winter…
There’s been widespread speculation the Mets would seek a wholesale upgrade to Juan Lagares in centerfield, making him the fourth outfielder and a weapon against left-handed pitching as he was after the trade deadline in 2015.
But Mets Vice President of Player Development Paul DePodesta told Adam Rubin of ESPN New York the Mets do not intend to displace Lagares in centerfield.
Rather, the Mets would essentially like to create a platoon with Lagares, the former Gold Glover who is owed $22.5 million through 2019.
Lagares posted a .771 OPS against left-handed pitching in 2015. Ideally, the Mets would like to find a similarly productive outfielder against right-handed pitching.
Gerardo Parra – who posted an .809 OPS against righties in 2015 and has a career .767 OPS against righties – fits that criteria, although he profiles more as a corner outfielder. He’s an outstanding defensive player coming off of a career year with the Brewers and Orioles.
Denard Span also fits that criteria, and is a natural centerfielder. But the 32-year-old is coming off a season cut short by hip labrum surgery, and it’s not yet clear if his speed and range might be reduced as a result of his injury. But he had an .880 OPS against right-handed pitching in 2015 when he did play and owns a .760 career OPS against righties. He could conceivably take a short-term contract in an attempt to rebuild his value and prove he’s healthy, but it’s not clear that’s the route he might want to take.
In the cases of both Span and Parra, its not yet clear if one or the other would even consider a part-time role, at which point the Mets would either have to decide whether or not to make them full-time players or look to the second tier of free agent outfielders for a solution.
But while the Mets have committed quite a bit of money to Lagares, he has yet to prove he can be an everyday player. And if his defense regresses at the same rate it did in 2015, it’s going to be hard to justify having him be anymore than a fourth outfielder anyway.