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Mets sign Lobaton to Minor League deal

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

NEW YORK -- The Mets made a move to shore up their catching depth on Friday, signing switch-hitting backstop Jose Lobaton to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

Lobaton, 33, hit .170 with four home runs and a .525 OPS in 51 games for the Nationals last season. An eight-year veteran of the Padres, Rays and Nats, Lobaton spent the past four seasons in Washington, appearing in the postseason in 2016 and '17.

NEW YORK -- The Mets made a move to shore up their catching depth on Friday, signing switch-hitting backstop Jose Lobaton to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

Lobaton, 33, hit .170 with four home runs and a .525 OPS in 51 games for the Nationals last season. An eight-year veteran of the Padres, Rays and Nats, Lobaton spent the past four seasons in Washington, appearing in the postseason in 2016 and '17.

In New York, Lobaton provides the Mets a measure of depth behind Travis d'Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki, who will split time at the position. The Mets' only other catcher with big league experience is Tomas Nido, their ninth-ranked prospect, per MLBPipeline.com, who -- like Lobaton -- figures to open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New York Mets, Jose Lobaton

Syndergaard working on Swarzak's nickname

When reliever Anthony Swarzak signed with the Mets following a breakout 2017, I'm sure there were many things he had to figure out like, "Where am I going to live?", "What should my uniform number be?" and "Who will give me a nickname?"

Fortunately for Swarzak, the Mets have Noah Syndergaard and he's on top of those things. 

BBWAA to hand out hardware at annual dinner

Stanton, Altuve, Olerud among honorees to be recognized at NY event
MLB.com @feinsand

Each January, the baseball world gathers the best of the best in midtown Manhattan for the annual New York BBWAA Awards Dinner, putting a bow on the 2017 season while getting pumped up for the start of Spring Training.

This time around, the event will not only serve as a chance to recognize those that excelled in 2017, but it will also feature what will likely be the first time Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge appear together in New York.

Each January, the baseball world gathers the best of the best in midtown Manhattan for the annual New York BBWAA Awards Dinner, putting a bow on the 2017 season while getting pumped up for the start of Spring Training.

This time around, the event will not only serve as a chance to recognize those that excelled in 2017, but it will also feature what will likely be the first time Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge appear together in New York.

Is that enough to get you excited for 2018?

The Baseball Writers' Association of America will present its eight major awards at the 95th edition of the dinner, which will be held at the Sheraton New York Times Square on Jan. 28, at 7 p.m. ET.

Stanton, the National League Most Valuable Player Award winner, will join Jose Altuve of the Astros, who won the American League MVP Award before leading Houston to its first World Series title during a memorable postseason run.

Video: Jose Altuve caps off magical 2017 with AL MVP Award

Max Scherzer of the Nationals and Indians ace Corey Kluber will be on hand to pick up the Cy Young Awards, the third for Scherzer since 2013 and second for Kluber since '14.

Judge, who finished second to Altuve in MVP voting, will pick up his AL Rookie of the Year Award, which he won unanimously. The NL's top rookie, Cody Bellinger, who also won the award in a unanimous vote, will be at the dinner to receive his hardware.

Video: Judge is AL Rookie of the Year and MVP runner-up

Twins manager Paul Molitor and D-backs manager Torey Lovullo, this year's Manager of the Year Award winners in the AL and NL, respectively, will be in New York for the celebration.

In addition to the BBWAA's eight national awards, the New York chapter will present nine of its own awards at the event, as well. Judge will be recognized as both the Sid Mercer-Dick Young New York Player of the Year Award and with the Joe DiMaggio Toast of the Town Award, while CC Sabathia will be honored with the Ben Epstein-Dan Castellano Good Guy Award.

Houston's big year means some other honors for Astros players: Carlos Correa will receive the Joan Payson-Shannon Forde Humanitarian Award, presented annually for community service work. George Springer will be honored with the Arthur and Milton Richman You Gotta Have Heart Award, while Altuve and Justin Verlander were voted co-winners of the Babe Ruth Award, presented annually to the most outstanding performer for the entire postseason.

The 1998 Yankees, who won 114 games in the regular season before making a run to a World Series championship, will be honored with the Willie, Mickey and the Duke Award.

John Olerud, who played for the Blue Jays, Mariners, Yankees, Mets and Red Sox during his 17-year career, will receive the Casey Stengel You Could Look it Up Award in honor of his .354 average in 1998, the highest by a Mets player in history.

Katy Feeney, the late MLB executive who passed away earlier this year, will be recognized as the winner of the William J. Slocum-Jack Lang Award for Long and Meritorious Service.

Tickets to the event -- which includes a copy of the annual "Scorebook" program -- are $275 per person. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the New York BBWAA chapter's official site.

Mark Feinsand, executive reporter for MLB.com, has covered the Yankees and MLB since 2001 for the New York Daily News and MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mets make progress in 'pen, but work left to do

New York agrees with Swarzak at Meetings; still seeks 2B, 1B/OF hybrid
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- At the offseason's outset, the Mets made relief help their top priority. Seeking a fourth elite arm to pair with Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins at the back of their bullpen, New York browsed around before springing for right-hander Anthony Swarzak at the Winter Meetings.

Once that two-year, $14 million deal becomes official in the coming days, the Mets will have accomplished their primary offseason goal. But much work remains for a team still seeking a second baseman and a first base/outfield hybrid.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- At the offseason's outset, the Mets made relief help their top priority. Seeking a fourth elite arm to pair with Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins at the back of their bullpen, New York browsed around before springing for right-hander Anthony Swarzak at the Winter Meetings.

Once that two-year, $14 million deal becomes official in the coming days, the Mets will have accomplished their primary offseason goal. But much work remains for a team still seeking a second baseman and a first base/outfield hybrid.

"I think we have to keep the bigger picture in mind," general manager Sandy Alderson said before departing the Meetings on Thursday. "By perhaps making some progress on the bullpen, we were able to focus a little more narrowly."

While it's possible the Mets will strike quickly on their next move, there's also a chance the process could drag into the New Year.

"That doesn't mean you have the same selection necessarily that you would have in, say, November or December," Alderson said. "But it doesn't mean that things won't accelerate over the next two weeks or so. It's hard to know what the calendar will demand, because we're not that far from Christmas. We'll just have to see how it all unfolds."

Hot Stove Tracker

What's next
When the Tigers traded Ian Kinsler to the Angels this week, it took an option off the board for a club that had negotiated with Detroit. The Mets are still candidates to acquire Cleveland's Jason Kipnis or Pittsburgh's Josh Harrison, among others in a buyer-friendly market. If all else fails, the Mets could re-sign Jose Reyes to play second.

Video: Duquette discusses Kinsler going to Angels

"It leaves us with a lot of other choices," Alderson said of the Kinsler deal. "We spent part of this morning looking at that position, reordering our options. There are still many different possibilities. We'll go home and keep an eye on that board, and see what transpires over the next few weeks."

Rule 5 Draft
With the sixth pick in the Rule 5 Draft, the Mets selected right-handed pitcher Burch Smith, before flipping him to the Royals for cash. New York later selected infielder Andrew Ely from the Cubs in the Minor League phase of the Draft, and it lost left-handed pitcher Jose Medina to the Padres.

2017 Rule 5 Draft results

GM's bottom line
"Just as I was reluctant to predict what would happen here, I'm reluctant to predict what will happen later, and when it will happen. It's just hard to predict. There are a lot of different possibilities, a lot of different combinations, and we're going to take a look at all of them. I think that the Meetings were helpful to help us resolve the bullpen situation and give us a little more clarity on options at other positions. So I think we're relatively happy going home." -- Alderson

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New York Mets

Mets sign reliever Swarzak to two-year deal

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Bent on improving the back end of what they felt was an already strong bullpen, the Mets finalized a two-year contract with free-agent reliever Anthony Swarzak on Friday. The deal is worth $14 million, according to multiple sources.

Swarzak, 32, is coming off the best season of his eight-year career, posting a 2.33 ERA in 77 1/3 innings split between the White Sox and Brewers. He also averaged a career high with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings, fifth in the Majors among relievers with at least 70 innings. The right-hander exclusively threw a fastball and slider, averaging a personal-best 95 mph with his four-seamer.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Bent on improving the back end of what they felt was an already strong bullpen, the Mets finalized a two-year contract with free-agent reliever Anthony Swarzak on Friday. The deal is worth $14 million, according to multiple sources.

Swarzak, 32, is coming off the best season of his eight-year career, posting a 2.33 ERA in 77 1/3 innings split between the White Sox and Brewers. He also averaged a career high with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings, fifth in the Majors among relievers with at least 70 innings. The right-hander exclusively threw a fastball and slider, averaging a personal-best 95 mph with his four-seamer.

Video: PIT@MIL: Swarzak strikes out Stewart, side in the 8th

"We said at the outset that relief pitching was something that we wanted to acquire," said Mets general manager Sandy Alderson at the Winter Meetings earlier this week. "We're happy with the way things have gone."

In New York, Swarzak will team with Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins at the back of the bullpen. Manager Mickey Callaway said Tuesday that Familia will not necessarily regain his ninth-inning duties, as the Mets look to modernize bullpen roles. At various times, all four of those pitchers could pick up closing duties.

Video: Callaway on philosophy of late-game bullpen roles

Roles aside, the Mets made acquiring a relief pitcher their top priority this winter, negotiating with Bryan Shaw, Tommy Hunter and others who have since signed elsewhere. While they balked at paying premiums for those players, the Mets were willing to give Swarzak a two-year deal despite the right-hander's relatively brief track record of success.

Entering last season, Swarzak held a 4.26 career ERA with just 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings. His uptick in velocity, combined with a change in repertoire -- Swarzak began throwing his slider more than 50 percent of the time in 2016, ditching his curveball and changeup completely -- transformed him to an extent that the Mets feel is sustainable.

Hot Stove Tracker

"Relievers in general are tricky to evaluate," said Brewers general manager David Stearns, who offered Swarzak a two-year deal to return to Milwaukee. "That problem is probably accentuated a little bit with someone like Anthony, who had a career that didn't necessarily predict what he did last year. At the same time, you can't take away what he did last year. He had a tremendous year. He was a big part of our run down the stretch and he deserves to be rewarded for it."

With Swarzak in the fold, the Mets are likely done shopping for relievers, according to Alderson, who also indicated recently that he does not plan to pursue starting-pitching help. That leaves two primary needs for the Mets: a second baseman and a first baseman/outfielder hybrid.

The team is much more likely to act quickly at second base, according to sources, with Pittsburgh's Josh Harrison, Cleveland's Jason Kipnis and Oakland's Jed Lowrie all options. New York does not appear to harbor significant interest in new Miami acquisition Starlin Castro.

Although the Mets have had dialogue with Jay Bruce, according to a source, an upgrade at first base could come later -- perhaps even as late into the winter as January. In any event, the club appears mostly done adding to its pitching staff.

"We wanted to acquire an extra arm," Alderson said. "I think we got somebody we're really happy about and is going to improve us. … We're continuing to be openminded about things."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New York Mets, Anthony Swarzak

Conforto exercises patience as strength builds

Mets outfielder committed to steady routine for left shoulder
MLB.com @JoeTrezz

NEW YORK -- On the gray days, as the weather chilled in Michael Conforto's native Seattle, the Mets outfielder finds the bat he keeps inside his apartment, and instead of pacing, he'll pick it up. The grip, for a second, both somewhat satisfies his itch and intensifies the next one.

"I can't swing it yet," Conforto said. "But I just want to feel it in my hands. I'm really excited to start swinging again."

NEW YORK -- On the gray days, as the weather chilled in Michael Conforto's native Seattle, the Mets outfielder finds the bat he keeps inside his apartment, and instead of pacing, he'll pick it up. The grip, for a second, both somewhat satisfies his itch and intensifies the next one.

"I can't swing it yet," Conforto said. "But I just want to feel it in my hands. I'm really excited to start swinging again."

Such is the restless routine of the baseball player told by his body to hold up, at least for now. Conforto spent the entire autumn listening, specifically to the alarm sounded by his left shoulder when it violently dislocated during a swing in late August. Three months after surgery to repair a tear in the shoulder's posterior capsule, Conforto has not begun any kind of baseball activities. He hopes that'll change next week after a meeting with his surgeon, Dr. Neal ElAttrache, in Los Angeles.

Video: ARI@NYM: Conforto injures shoulder after swing

Conforto's shoulder was healthy enough Wednesday to lift, fold and pack jackets donated to the Mets' annual holiday coat drive at Citi Field.

"Once I get the news from the doctor, we'll have a new plan on when I can start swinging and really starting to work out the way I want to," said Conforto. "The narrative of this offseason has been, we're going to feel it out -- definitely not rush anything."

The same sentiment extends to his return to the field. Conforto plans on reporting to Spring Training early, by late January, to continue his rehab in the warm weather. But as for Opening Day, Conforto echoed general manager Sandy Alderson's comments from earlier this week, which expressed a preference to proceed smartly -- even if that means slowly.

"As a competitor and a guy who wants to be out there with my teammates, absolutely, I'd love to be out there," Conforto said. "But I want to make sure I'm playing at the end of the year, when we're playing meaningful baseball. Would it be the worst thing in the world to miss the first few games? I don't think it would be the worst thing in the world, but I definitely want to be out there. We're going to take it slow, take it easy and make sure I'm still the effective player I want to be when I am out there."

For three months, Conforto inched along with that mindset, making sure not to disrupt a shoulder repaired, but still recovering.

"It's been a grind," Conforto said of the routine, which can get tedious: caution and rest, along with physical therapy two hours a day, three to four days per week.

"It's been super monotonous, super boring," he said. "Still is. Three sets of 20 reps of everything. Both shoulders. My shoulders have never been in better shape."

Conforto said the shoulder doesn't give him any pain in everyday life, but he's still in the stage where he needs to avoid reaching across or behind his body. Barring any setbacks, he hopes to be swinging again after the holidays. During a normal year, Conforto said he'd have already been swinging for two weeks.

"I don't want to hurt myself by jumping out there too early," he said. "I want to be ready as early as possible, but I want to be healthy before I do that."

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New York Mets, Michael Conforto

Mo Vaughn turns 50, watch him hit a ball 500 ft

By the time Mo Vaughn came to the Mets in 2002, many of his greatest years were behind him. And they were great. From 1991-2000, the three-time All Star -- who's celebrating his 50th birthday today -- hit 299 homers, collected 1,479 hits, picked up an MVP Award and slashed at a robust .298/.387/.533 clip. He brought Fenway Park to its feet, he tried punching holes in the Skydome, he sent baseballs on frightening trips down Eutaw Street.

But after years of wear and tear and injury (and even missing the entire '01 season due to a biceps operation), the 34-year-old slugger was traded by the Angels to the Mets. The first baseman struggled through April and May -- hitting just four home runs. But once June came around, he started to heat up. And on June 26, Big Mo gave Shea Stadium a delicious, satisfying taste of the Big Mo of old -- uncorking a prodigious dinger halfway up the right-field scoreboard:

Mets appear likely to keep Harvey in the fold

Amid trade rumors, Callaway and Eiland eager to work with righty
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Matt Harvey rumors may have pervaded the Dolphin Hotel's lobby floor this week, but general manager Sandy Alderson on Tuesday painted a less freewheeling picture of the Mets' interest in moving the former All-Star starter.

"The most important thing I'm weighing are the opinions of Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland, and they don't want to lose him," Alderson said, referring to the Mets' new manager and pitching coach. "Everything else is, today, moot."

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Matt Harvey rumors may have pervaded the Dolphin Hotel's lobby floor this week, but general manager Sandy Alderson on Tuesday painted a less freewheeling picture of the Mets' interest in moving the former All-Star starter.

"The most important thing I'm weighing are the opinions of Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland, and they don't want to lose him," Alderson said, referring to the Mets' new manager and pitching coach. "Everything else is, today, moot."

Since arriving at the Winter Meetings earlier this week, the Mets have held conversations with other teams -- including the Orioles and Rangers -- about Harvey. Interest abounds in a pitcher who posted a 2.27 ERA over 26 starts as a 24-year-old, starting the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field.

But the Mets have their own ideas on how to rekindle Harvey's career in Flushing. The right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery in October 2013 and a second operation to alleviate symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome in June 2016. Last summer, Harvey missed close to three months due to shoulder weakness. He is eligible to become a free agent after this season.

Video: Callaway on competition amongst starting pitchers

Still, Harvey remains an important part of a Mets depth chart that features significant question marks in Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo. Beyond twin aces Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, the Mets cannot know how their rotation will perform.

For all his issues, Harvey at least gives the Mets some additional depth and stability. By the end of last season, the right-hander was again hitting 97 mph on the radar gun, rekindling hopes that he can become a serviceable mid-rotation starter. Callaway, a former pitching coach, and Eiland are both eager to work with Harvey this spring.

How successful they will be remains to be seen. When asked Tuesday what percentage of Harvey's issues are physical or mental, Callaway demurred.

"I'm not really sure yet," the new manager said. "I've talked to him on the phone. There's a lot more evaluating and talking to him and seeing him throw, Dave getting his hands on him in the offseason that needs to be done, before we can even discuss that really."

But it is at least a conundrum the Mets plan to solve, with all signs pointing toward Harvey's return.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New York Mets, Matt Harvey

Callaway keeping Mets' closer role open

New manager could employ style that worked in Cleveland and mix, match Familia, Ramos, Blevins
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When Jeurys Familia returned from arterial surgery late last summer, the Mets made a point of being cautious with him. Initially, the team shied away from deploying Familia in high-leverage spots, using trade acquisition AJ Ramos in save situations instead. Even after that restriction faded, the Mets never completely removed the bubble-wrap from their one-time closer.

Perhaps the gray area that emerged will prove to be prophetic. Manager Mickey Callaway said Tuesday that Familia is not necessarily the closer heading into 2018, as the Mets look to modernize roles throughout their bullpen.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When Jeurys Familia returned from arterial surgery late last summer, the Mets made a point of being cautious with him. Initially, the team shied away from deploying Familia in high-leverage spots, using trade acquisition AJ Ramos in save situations instead. Even after that restriction faded, the Mets never completely removed the bubble-wrap from their one-time closer.

Perhaps the gray area that emerged will prove to be prophetic. Manager Mickey Callaway said Tuesday that Familia is not necessarily the closer heading into 2018, as the Mets look to modernize roles throughout their bullpen.

"I think we're going to pitch guys when it makes sense and we're going to pitch guys to our strengths, and they're going to face the batters they should be facing," Callaway said. "If that means [Familia] is going to close every game, that could happen if it lines up that way. We're not locked into that."

Video: NYM@PHI: Familia fans Rupp to earn the save

Callaway's vision is a bullpen that positions relievers based upon situations and opponents -- not specific innings. It is a philosophy that his old team, the Indians, employed to great effect under his stewardship, using Andrew Miller in particular anywhere from the sixth through ninth innings the past two regular seasons. When Miller began struggling in pressure spots last year, Indians closer Cody Allen -- at that point a more traditional ninth-inning man -- volunteered to switch roles with him.

Callaway envisions similar flexibility in New York, where Familia, Ramos and Jerry Blevins all boast experience in high-leverage situations. Familia led the Majors with a Mets-record 51 saves in 2016. Ramos has saved 99 games with a 2.98 ERA the past three seasons. Blevins held left-handed hitters to a .455 OPS last year.

Video: CIN@NYM: Ramos gets Ervin to fly out to earn the save

In addition, the Mets are looking to sign someone with similar late-game acumen such as Addison Reed, though a once-robust market for setup men is quickly growing thin. While any one of Familia, Ramos or a new acquisition could serve as the Mets' dedicated closer, it's also possible none of them do.

"It depends on what Spring Training looks like," Callaway said. "I don't think I'm prepared to say one way or the other. I have thoughts going into the season that I just want our pitchers to face the batters they're supposed to face. If it means he's a closer, then he's a closer. I'm not really concerned about titles. I don't think the players, from talking to them, are concerned about titles."

That last part, according to general manager Sandy Alderson, is critical to making such a system work. Oftentimes, relievers prefer set roles so they can maintain consistent routines of stretching, warming and entering games. If job descriptions are fluid, pitchers must stay on edge.

But Callaway's success in Cleveland has the Mets believing such a system could also work in New York, even if it means stripping Familia -- the team's closer since 2015 -- of his role. While the Mets have yet to broach these ideas with individual players, they will do so in the coming months. Such a strategy would mesh well with their desire to prevent most of their starting pitchers from facing opposing lineups more than twice in a game.

"It's an interesting possibility," Alderson said. "Communication will be the watchword. Right now, it's more of a working theory than anything else. But it embraces some of the things we've been talking about before, which is the evolving relationship between starting pitching and relief pitching and the evolving way that relief pitching is being used."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New York Mets, Jeurys Familia

Winter Meetings interview with Mickey Callaway

MLB.com

Q. Being around Terry [Colllins], what's that been like for you to talk to him? Is it real weird to have him around? What's that like for you?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: No, it's been great. I think that information is valuable, and he's got a lot of information about things that happened with the Mets. We're going to always use every bit of information we can to get better. Knowing his points of views on things are really helpful to me. So I'm going to value that relationship and learn from him and his experiences.

Q. Being around Terry [Colllins], what's that been like for you to talk to him? Is it real weird to have him around? What's that like for you?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: No, it's been great. I think that information is valuable, and he's got a lot of information about things that happened with the Mets. We're going to always use every bit of information we can to get better. Knowing his points of views on things are really helpful to me. So I'm going to value that relationship and learn from him and his experiences.

He was a great manager here for a long time, one of the longest tenured managers in Mets history. So he knows a thing or two, and I'm going to use that to my advantage and to the Mets advantage.

Q. Mickey, you're coming from a team that had a lot of success the last few years even though you didn't have the biggest payroll in your division. Do you have that underdog or us against-the-world mentality that made you guys strong?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: Yeah, we used every resource we could. I think knowing that you didn't have all the money in the world to spend, that you had to do everything else better than everybody else -- from health, from juicing, to making sure guys are hydrated. I know that's been kind of an issue that we've brought up.

But it's not just those little things, it's consistently doing things on a daily basis, and it's a grind, and it's very tough. But you stick after it, and you do something special with a group of people that feels really special in the end.

Q. And New York, obviously, is probably in one of the biggest payroll divisions.

MICKEY CALLAWAY: It is. And that's the right way to do things. Use every possible resource you can, and do things that make sense. That's what we do.

Q. You talk about hydration. How do you get buy-in from players who maybe haven't been accustomed to it. Especially for Major League players that maybe have a low [inaudible]?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: Yeah, that can be an issue. The good thing is today's player likes technology. If you use technology, they're going to love it and find it intriguing. It kind of is not boring throughout the day. So there's that.

I think the main thing is showing them that it's going to help their performance, and that's what we're all about. We want to win games. We want our players to be the best they can be, and that's what we're trying to accomplish with all of these little things. And they may seem tedious, but sometimes those smaller things, paying attention to those smaller, tedious tasks is what it takes to win. And if you want to win, you're going to do that. When players know that it's going to help them, they're going to do it.

Q. You expect 100 percent buy-in on something like that, or is that something --

MICKEY CALLAWAY: Absolutely not. Everybody's an individual, and I wouldn't ever make guys do things just to make them do it. I'm going to teach them that, hey, this makes sense for you to get better. If you don't get total buy-in then, then you continue to try to improve them in other ways. You can't make people do stuff, but you can coach them and educate them on why it makes sense to do it.

Q. Mickey, you have a lot of starting pitchers beyond [Noah Syndergaard] and [Jacob deGrom]. Does it basically reopen the competition for those other three spots, or how's that going to work?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: Yeah, I think any time you have -- I feel like a lot of teams would like to have our starting staff and the depth that we have. Any time you have a lot of pitchers that are capable of pitching in the major leagues, there's competition. And it's not just, oh, you know what, I'm going to make the team to start the season. Sometimes the guys that make the team to start the season are there probably for fewer days than a guy that doesn't, and that's just the reality of baseball, especially when you're talking about options and stuff.

So it's going to be about being the best you can be. And, hey, when things get rolling, we're going to have a competition amongst our starters to outdo the guy that pitched the day before. And it's a healthy competition amongst teammates that creates a lot of success. There's going to be competition every single day.

Q. I mean, but from that group, is there any one or two guys that you say, well, if they're healthy, he's in there already, or not?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: No. I mean, we have to watch and see and evaluate and make sure that guys are working. That's, for me, you can't have expectations on numbers. I have expectations that guys are going to work hard, and that's how we're going to evaluate guys.

Q. Do you guys have like an early camp for like pitchers or something like that? I know you mentioned that. Maybe you could explain what that is.

MICKEY CALLAWAY: Yeah, the guys, in talking to myself and [pitching coach] Dave [Eiland], are excited. It sounds like guys are going to be there really early to get things started.

Q. But nothing like special, like everyone come down super early?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: No. The players are so excited they want to get there and start getting to work. They're asking us when we'd be there. It's kind of cool.

Q. There's been a lot of talk about what you do with these pitchers in the off-season to try and get them ready. Do you have kind of a set way that you like pitchers to get themselves ready, or do you and your staff, do you guys kind of tailor to each individual guy what you think works for them?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: Yes. So we have suggestions as far as throwing programs. When you're talking about Major League Baseball players, they usually have their routines and their throwing programs. So we have a couple of throwing programs, one that Dave has used in the past, one that I've been around in the past, and those guys are aware of those programs. If they can take anything out of those programs to improve themselves, then we'll encourage that.

I think that we will make sure that there's structure, and we'll provide the necessary resources for their routines so they can accomplish those throughout the offseason to get to a point where they can have success starting the first opening day and throughout Spring Training. But we definitely know that everybody's an individual, and we're going to tailor their work for that player.

Q. You said you were going to watch video of every game. How far along are you?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: So when I'm in my office in New York, I have it kind of playing. They can condense a game down to 20 minutes. That's a tall task. I've been trying to do it. I don't know if I'm going to make it all the way through.

I think, more than that, I'm trying to hone in on individuals, and as I'm watching a game, if I see something like a position player, I'll kind of hone in on him and kind of watch what he's doing.

So it's been really -- I just want to be familiar with what the players can do.

Q. Well, now, when you met [Matt Harvey] and you watch what he's doing on there, how much of it do you think is a physical issue, and how much of it is up here?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: I'm not really sure yet. I've talked to him on the phone. There's a lot more evaluating and talking to and seeing him throw, Dave getting his hands on him in the offseason that needs to be done before we can even discuss that, really.

Q. Mickey, coming in, where do you guys kind of fit? You have a rotation with a lot of potential, but it has health questions. You have some younger players. You have some goals. Kind of on the spectrum between like World Series favorite and like rebuild, where do you think you guys kind of fit in from what you know about the team?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: I think any team, no matter where they've been identified as rebuilding or a contender is going to have expectations to win, and we're not going to be concerned about what direction anybody thinks we're going in. We're going to do everything we can every day to create a culture that wins, and if we win this year, great. If not, we're going to be putting methods, routines, processes in place to create this culture where we're going to sustain winning for a long time, and that's our ultimate goal.

That goal of winning this year is definitely there, and we're never going to consider ourselves in rebuild mode or championship mode. We're going to have a process for everything we do. And we're going to stick to that process. We're going to go A, B, C, D, and not go A, Z, because things get lost, and things don't get accomplished what you need done, and you can't win like that consistently.

Q. Guys from surgery last year, Jeurys Familia never really made it back to the closer's [role]. Going into next year, is he a closer in your mind, or do you have to figure that out in Spring Training?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: I think we're going to pitch guys when it makes sense, and we're going to pitch guys to our strengths, and they're going to face the batters they should be facing. If that means he's going to close every game, that could happen if it lines up that way. We're not locked into that. I think that we have to make sure we get to a save situation, and if we can't get there, it doesn't do any good to have this guy be named the closer. So we're going to pitch guys when it makes sense, and we're going to do everything we can to win every night.

Q. Can it work over 162 games to not have a dedicated closer?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: Yeah, I think it can if you're having pitchers face the guys they're supposed to face.

Q. Mickey, I know it's not as simple as one sentence, but the launch angle, 12-6 curveball, high fastball -- is that an actual counter to what a lot of guys' approach at the plate actually is now?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: Yeah, it's a counter to a guy that's probably trying to lift the ball, even if it's not him trying to create a launch angle, just his normal swing. I think it's the pitching coach's job, the pitcher's job, the catcher's job to identify what kind of swing any hitter has and come up with a plan to attack that swing. If they have a little bit of a dip and swinging up, then the high fastball, especially a good ride and four-seamer and the breaking ball in the dirt seems to counter that pretty good.

Q. Is that a pitch that you can learn -- can you teach guys to throw 12-6 and really work it consistently if they haven't had it in the arsenal?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: You can. That takes time. I think the key to pitching is to pitch with your best stuff. In Cleveland, we had every one of our starters had a nasty curveball. So they threw their best pitch, and it wasn't necessarily us teaching curveballs and stressing curveballs. It was just us stressing their best pitch and their best weapon against hitters.

So you can teach it. It's going to take some time. You're not going to learn it in a week in Spring Training and then all of a sudden use it in the game when the game's on the line, first game of the season, but I think there's value to a curveball in slowing the bat down and being able to lead with that pitch, bury it.

I think you could do the same with a slider if you're using that pitch the same way. If you're just trying to throw it middle and you're never bouncing it, that's where you come into a problem.

Q. Could you clarify, when you talk about your closer, are you saying you don't want to go into the season having somebody named your closer, or all season long you don't want to have somebody be called the closer?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: Yeah, I think it depends on what Spring Training looks like. I don't think I'm prepared to say one way or the other. I have thoughts going into the season that I just want our pitchers to face the batters they're supposed to face. If it means he's a closer, then he's a closer. I'm not really concerned about titles. I don't think the players, from talking to them, are concerned about titles. These players want to win and want to pitch and want to have success, and that's what we're going to set them up to do.

Q. Mickey, so along those lines, it's like you're talking about high leverage situations and stuff like that. Is Familia the guy you bring into your quote-unquote high leverage situation or it depends on numbers, matchups?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: It definitely depends on suspected OPS, OPS that we know has already happened. I'm going to look at all that information. I'm going to look at where does this pitcher's fastball end up, and is that the same spot that this guy hits the ball really well?

So there's probably 50 factors that goes into why you're bringing a guy in, and we're going to take all those into account.

Q. Mickey, a lot of people looked at that and talked about [inaudible]. Obviously, you're not talking that way. I was wondering, in your career, when do you think that changed over in your mind when you looked at it more as a leverage perspective? What kind of swayed you that way?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: I think being around Terry Francona, who has done that the best. It's not just that one high leverage situation that defined how Tito ran his bullpen. He set everybody up, whether it was the 12th pitcher on the staff, that last guy in the bullpen, never faced guys he shouldn't have. So if you go back and look at Terry Francona's bullpens, there's not too many guys that ever struggled under his -- when he was their leader. Everybody on the staff pitched good for a reason because they always faced the guys they were supposed to.

If you do that, then players can pitch whenever, and they want to pitch whenever. Now, you've got to have the right personalities to do it. We were lucky to have Andrew Miller, who's one of the better relievers in all of baseball, who would pitch in the fifth if you asked him to, the fourth. He's just a special type guy.

Q. There used to be resistance to that because you hear guys say they want to roll. They want to have a chance to expect when they could come in. Do you have a better sense of this group or a good enough sense of this group already to know that they would be open to doing whatever and breaking free from his old role?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: From what I've heard of them from other people, from talking to the players and their desire to win, I do get that feeling. I can never speak for anybody, but that's a feeling I get when I talk to this excited group of players. There's not a lot of selfishness going on, and they just want to win. They'll do whatever it takes to win.

Q. In your past -- I don't know how much backfield down in Spring Training you wanted to get to, how much you actually enjoyed that. Can you as a manager still find yourself wandering around those areas to sort of get excited?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: Yeah. I think that's the exciting part of it. Once you're out on the field and getting to see whatever it is you're working on that day. That's what I'm looking forward to the most. Yeah, I'll definitely be there.

Q. But seeing young guys work the backfields, it almost seems like, as a manager, you might not -- when you're out in your own time, you might not do that as much. But that's something you want to carve out time for?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: Absolutely. I think everyone on your roster is going to help you win at some point. They need to know that that work on the backfield, even if you're a young guy, is very important, so I'll definitely pay attention to it.

Q. Of all the guys you played for, Buck Showalter in Texas, he's managed like four other managers in the big leagues right now. Is there anything you've learned from him that you're taking into your job now?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: Yeah, how prepared Buck was, how organized he was. I mean, he had countdown clocks in Spring Training to the first pitch of the season, counting down to the second. He cared about his players. He communicated with his players. He made sure he was around. He didn't just sit in his office. I mean, I learned a ton of stuff from Buck. Even his relationships with other people in the game. If you see him during BP, he kind of moseys over. He's standing on third base behind the screen, watching BP, talking to the opposing coaches. He's a relationship person. I learned a lot from him.

Q. What's the last few weeks been like for you? Are you just getting to know who is who, who does what, where the analytics people sit? And even just like have you had a chance to talk to every player yet? Still making your way through? Or getting to know everyone in the organization?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: That's a challenge. I've probably shaken hands and reintroduced myself to many people that I've already met. Trying to stay on top of that obviously, faces, learning new faces, and names. That's been a challenge, but it's been real fun.

I've definitely reached out to every player, whether it's text, voicemail, talking on the phone. There's sometimes challenges in the off-season with people overseas and things like that, where it's hard to actually get on the phone. Those guys that I haven't talked to on the phone yet, I think there's like two or three, I'm going to get to see in person this winter. That will be really good.

I'm going to take a trip at some point to the Dominican, go to our complex, and see some guys there. So that will be a good chance to connect in that regard.

I think that the first couple weeks after I was hired, we spent trying to hire a staff. We got a great staff for the Mets. That was a great process. So that was really fun.

And then the last week and a half has been kind of laid back until we got here. I went and played golf with Terry Francona and [Indians bench coach] Brad Mills in Pebble Beach. We came in second and kind of relaxed.

And I was at home on a Tuesday for the first time since the season ended last week to see my daughter's dance class. So she was excited about that.

Q. How does the manager role compare now to your playing days? What are the modern challenges that didn't exist then?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: You know, I think that the accessibility to information. When I was first playing, and I just -- the pitching coach said that, so I'm going to do it. I think now you have to realize that, as a coach, if you say something to a player, they're going to go look it up right away. They have instant access to information. You better know what you're talking about, and you had better put a lot of forethought into that. So that's the biggest difference.

I try to do that, and over time, when you tell people something and they go double-check it and you put some forethought into it, they start to understand that you're not just speaking and reacting, that you're prepared going in with the things you're going to give them.

Q. For the role you describe, it's part White House press secretary and analytics stuff and massaging personalities, all that stuff. Does that kind of contribute to a higher burnout rate? There's not a lot of longevity in this job, especially of late.

MICKEY CALLAWAY: You know, I think that passion for baseball probably counteracts that and what we do. Obviously, you have obligations and things that you have to do as a manager. You just embrace every second. I just kind of live in the moment and have -- I'm going to just kind of be honest with everybody every day and go about my business. I love the game of baseball and thinking about it and thinking about leadership. So I think that will -- and a lot of coffee. I get up real early and drink tons of coffee. I don't think I'm going to burn out unless I have a heart attack or something, like Tito.

Q. Do you think the fact now that relievers are getting paid on bases other than saves now, looking at the whole picture, that makes it a lot easier to make the move you're talking about. Five, ten years ago, this would have been like blasphemy. The fact that guys are going to get their number now regardless of the number of saves.

MICKEY CALLAWAY: They should. When you're using them in a high leverage situation, that is the save. The save that night is the highest leverage situation. If you were just using analytics, you could close anybody with a three-run lead and you've got a 96 percent chance of winning the game, any of your relievers. So guys that pitch in high leverage situations that are willing to get paid, and that's what's happening, and I think it's great.

Q. Have you started to think about messaging? I don't know if rules are the right way to put it anymore, but how you want to address it and how you want that clubhouse to feel the minute you break out of Florida? What you want the room to feel like, how you get that message out really early in Spring Training.

MICKEY CALLAWAY: I think a lot about that. Every night I go to bed, think about that. I'm having a meeting with some folks tonight to talk about how we want to approach that. The bottom line is the players are going to have a lot of say in what we expect on a daily basis because you can't create a good culture without that.

I think that we're going to get feedback from everybody on what is expected of us, the way we play the game. The way we arrive at the field. The way we show up for stretch. We're going to be able to create a set of expectations, or whatever you want to call them, that are going to be enforced by not only the staff but the players themselves.

And when you get players doing that, you have something special -- and valuing that and policing themselves. That's how you win.

Q. Do you believe in captaincy? Do you sort of like the idea?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: I think everybody's a captain. I think that, if the veteran's not doing what is expected in a culture, that the youngest guy should be able to say something. And if you really create that family and that culture, then anybody can bring any issue up, and it should be taken the right way and adjusted.

Q. It's now 100 pitches have become kind of a demarcation line when pitchers get pulled. You talk about making those decisions. How do you reconcile with the two, the front office that says, hey, it shows when a guy throws 100 pitches, the production really diminishes?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: Yeah, you have to look at that type of information. Everybody's different -- 120 pitches for Trevor Bauer is much different than anybody else. It's going to be the individual.

Have we prepared and looked and see what does this guy's stuff do? We're going to be monitoring guys' stuff in real time throughout the game. So it's not necessarily just at 100 pitches or 90 pitches. We're going to know if his arm slot's dropping and things like that in realtime hopefully.

Q. And you've advocated doing more throws, which is something we've seen less of. What's that based on?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: A lot of research and data, things that I've done myself with other people. Things I've read about. You have to condition yourself to do something. Rest isn't always the best thing, especially if you haven't conditioned yourself the right way to go out there and deal with the rigors of throwing 200 innings and 115 pitches a game.

We're going to condition guys to be able to do that, and then we'll rest and recover in between those good workouts.

Q. Mickey, you've talked a lot about analytics information. So in your exploration of that, is there one idea that you've taken from that that maybe changed the way you viewed something in the game? You saw it one way as a player, and now that you've been exposed to this stuff, it's maybe changed your view on it?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: Yeah, I think probably the biggest thing is, when you're a player and you've faced somebody four times -- and I guess what I'm talking about is small sample sizes versus like a three-year look in those analytical numbers. And you've gone 3-for-4 off of this guy -- let me put it this way: In my debut, I hadn't hit since high school, and I went 2-for-3 off of Dustin Hermanson. So does that mean, when I come up as a pitcher the next time, that Dustin Hermanson shouldn't stay in and strike me out, which he would have done? I think that small sample sizes that's become very clear to me that you can't put too much stock in that.

Q. [Shohei] Ohtani went to the American League, so you guys might not be able to face as much. In your opinion, do you think it's possible to stay as a two-way player in the Major League level?

MICKEY CALLAWAY: We're going to find out. I think he probably has the talent to do it from what I've heard. You might see different things in the big leagues than you've ever seen, maybe a six-man rotation. I don't know. We'll see. You might.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New York Mets

FA signings at '13 Meetings helped rising Mets

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

NEW YORK -- Heading into the 2013 Winter Meetings, the Mets were coming off consecutive 88-loss seasons. They had not sniffed second place in the National League East since '08, which also happened to be the last time they were involved in a serious postseason race.

They had spent years worrying about payroll and passed quiet offseasons making moves at the margins, as the specter of Bernie Madoff loomed over the franchise.

NEW YORK -- Heading into the 2013 Winter Meetings, the Mets were coming off consecutive 88-loss seasons. They had not sniffed second place in the National League East since '08, which also happened to be the last time they were involved in a serious postseason race.

They had spent years worrying about payroll and passed quiet offseasons making moves at the margins, as the specter of Bernie Madoff loomed over the franchise.

Hot Stove Tracker

First, the Mets finalized a four-year, $60 million deal with outfielder Curtis Granderson, the most lucrative free-agent signing they secured in three years. Then, they inked Bartolo Colon to a two-year, $2 million contract, adding legitimacy to their claims of the dawn of a new era.

Those signings came a month after the Mets agreed with another free agent, Chris Young, to a $7.25 million deal, marking one of the Mets' most active offseasons in recent memory.

"It was what we had to do," chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said after Granderson's signing. "It was something that we wanted to do. It fit well with the plan. It's a commitment on our part to have him around. [Granderson] wanted to be around to see the team turn the corner and be part of it moving forward. I think he was the best fit for us."

While not quite as impactful, the signings recalled the Mets' most dramatic Winter Meetings splash ever, when they sealed a deal for catcher Gary Carter at the 1984 Meetings in Houston. At the time, the Mets were a team on the rise, improving to a 98-win club in '85, then a 108-win team that won the World Series in '86.

With Granderson and Colon in tow, the Mets likewise bumped up to second place with a 79-win season in 2014, then to 90 wins, a division title and a World Series berth in '15.

Video: WS2015 Gm5: Statcast™ looks at Granderson's home run

"I can't be more excited or more proud to wear the orange and blue," David Wright, who finalized his own $138 million deal at the 2012 Winter Meetings, said after the division clincher. "I bleed orange and blue. To be able to celebrate with these fans, this city, this team, is a privilege."

This year's Meetings may not be as dramatic for the Mets, but they are still likely to include one or more major signings. The team plans to be aggressive in the relief market, hoping to ink at least one premier setup man in the coming weeks. General manager Sandy Alderson's front office is also shopping around for a second baseman and first base/outfield hybrid.

Unlike in 2013, this isn't the dawn of a new era; the Mets are primed to win now, and have been for some time. But they still need to add plenty of pieces. As in '13, at least some of them are likely to come at the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New York Mets

Flashback to Mets' acquisition of Gary Carter

From 1974 to 1984, the Montreal Expos enjoyed having Gary Carter, a slugging catcher and tremendous defensive backstop, suit up for them every day. During that span, Carter made seven NL All-Star teams, won three Gold Glove Awards and hit a bunch of dingers. He was a star. 

Mets bring merry thoughts on '18 to holiday party

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

NEW YORK -- Given their budget, the Mets are not primed to make baseball's biggest Hot Stove splashes this season. They will acquire multiple players, with a focus on bullpen help. But the team that reports to Port St. Lucie, Fla., in February is bound to look similar to the one that parted ways last October.

To improve, the Mets are looking to other areas. One is new manager Mickey Callaway and his staff, whom the Mets hope will help change the culture in Flushing. Another is the club's focus on new-age medical and training philosophies, which several players discussed Thursday at the Mets' annual holiday party for children from local schools.

NEW YORK -- Given their budget, the Mets are not primed to make baseball's biggest Hot Stove splashes this season. They will acquire multiple players, with a focus on bullpen help. But the team that reports to Port St. Lucie, Fla., in February is bound to look similar to the one that parted ways last October.

To improve, the Mets are looking to other areas. One is new manager Mickey Callaway and his staff, whom the Mets hope will help change the culture in Flushing. Another is the club's focus on new-age medical and training philosophies, which several players discussed Thursday at the Mets' annual holiday party for children from local schools.

Video: Syndergaard looking forward to working with Callaway

"I think we're all really excited," starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard said. "We're all really pushing for one another to stay healthy throughout the entire year. We're all looking forward to that."

Syndergaard, who met Callaway recently at a Knicks game, has revamped his personal training methods since missing four months of last season due to a torn right lat. Working with an independent trainer this offseason, Syndergaard is "still lifting heavy, but smarter," in his words, avoiding lat-based exercises such as pull-ups, and even training briefly with the Canadian Olympic sprint coach. His goal is "to become a more well-rounded athlete," rather than to focus on power before all else.

Tweet from @Mets: Kevin Plawecki, @jerryblevins, @You_Found_Nimmo and @noahsyndergaard took part in our annual Kids Holiday Party. #MetsGiving📸: https://t.co/S14iNig9yI pic.twitter.com/PbvZNMiMDz

"It's different," Syndergaard said. "It's still taxing workouts. But my body has never felt better."

He and others have already talked to new pitching coach Dave Eiland, who has his own ideas about how to improve the club. The team also has plans to hire both a new head trainer and a high-performance director to oversee the entire operation.

"It's refreshing to get somebody else's mind in there, and tactics, and what they want to do," reliever Jerry Blevins said. "We want to win, so we're excited to move forward."

For now, however, most Mets are still resting their bodies while enjoying the offseason. For Syndergaard, Blevins, Brandon Nimmo and Kevin Plawecki, that meant attending the Mets' annual holiday party Thursday at Citi Field. Nimmo dressed up as Santa, handing out presents to local children with the help of his teammates, who donned elf garb.

"It's a blast," Nimmo said. "I really enjoy doing this. I really enjoy getting personal with the kids and just talking. We're normal people and sometimes we get this kind of superhero figure around you. We just get to get down on a one-on-one level and hand out presents, and meet people who are giving back to the community and trying to make it better. We really enjoy [giving back] as well."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New York Mets