As hot stove chaos begins to descend upon Major League Baseball, the Mets are maintaining tunnel vision regarding their offseason agenda. Contract extensions for David Wright and R.A. Dickey remain their top offseason priority, and general manager Sandy Alderson could make significant progress on those fronts at this week's General Managers Meetings in Indian Wells, Calif.
But the Mets do have plenty of additional roster issues, none more pressing than in the outfield. As it currently stands, the Mets do not have a single starter entrenched in any of their three outfield positions, leading to myriad questions heading into the offseason.
Is there any chance that the Mets will be able to unload Jason Bay (maybe he just needs a change of scenery), even if they have to pick up a large portion of his salary?
-- Jeff C., Hillside, N.J.
Unless the Mets take on an equally bad contract in return -- and there are precious few around the league that would qualify -- they are stuck with Bay for 2013. Simply eating a significant portion of Bay's salary in a trade does not make sense, as the Mets are in the business of improving their own financial flexibility. If they're going to pay Bay to play for someone else, they might as well just keep him in Flushing, where they hope he can at least provide solid outfield defense and the threat of power against left-handed pitching.
Alderson made it clear toward the end of the season that this is not an Oliver Perez or Luis Castillo situation, as the Mets feel they can still salvage something out of Bay's final year under contract.
That said, it is clear that Bay's time as the unquestioned left-field starter is finished. I suspect he and Lucas Duda will enter the season in a left-field platoon, with perhaps a lower-tier free agent or a trade acquisition taking over in right.
It is worth noting that Bay has virtually no chance to exercise his $17 million vesting option for 2014, meaning the Mets should be on the hook for nothing more than a $3 million buyout. That figure will become part of next year's payroll, giving the Mets added financial flexibility in 2014.
Why get rid of Scott Hairston? He is, without question, an asset.
-- Chris S., Morris County, N.J.
Because he is a free agent, and therefore has the right to seek a more lucrative contract elsewhere. Hairston performed so well in 2012 that another team will almost certainly give him a two-year deal at a significant raise from the $1.1 million he made last season, perhaps even as a starting outfielder. With much more pressing needs than a right-handed platoon bat, the Mets would be better served allocating those resources elsewhere.
As an aside, the acquisition of Hairston last winter easily stands as Alderson's best free-agent signing since taking over in 2010 (even if Alderson would have been better served locking Hairston in on a multiyear deal).
But despite Hairston's success and his desire to become an everyday player, he seems better suited to platoon work -- the veteran's pedestrian .739 OPS against right-handed pitchers last season was actually a significant improvement over his .704 career mark in that department. There is little in Hairston's track record to suggest that he is more than a platoon outfielder at this point in his career.
Have you heard anything about the Mets' plans for Mike Pelfrey? I remember Terry Collins being quoted as thinking Pelf would make a good closer, and I tend to agree. Mike gets into trouble when he's up in the strike zone. I don't think it would be as much of a problem pitching an inning at a time, because he would throw his fastball harder. Your thoughts?
-- Walter M., Brooklyn
The Mets have no choice but to non-tender Pelfrey, given the millions he would command through arbitration. Before the end of the season, Collins said he hoped Pelfrey would consider signing a lesser deal to stay in New York. But given the team's rotation depth, it makes little sense for the Mets to use any chunk of their precious offseason resources to re-sign Pelfrey to a significant deal.
In other words, I really can't see Pelfrey returning unless it's on a Minor League deal, or at best a modest Major League deal with the caveat that he will pitch out of the bullpen. Though I agree that Pelfrey could potentially find success as a reliever, relying almost exclusively on his low-90s sinker for one- or two-inning spurts, I find it hard to believe that he and agent Scott Boras would accept that role without first shopping around extensively.
What kind of bullpen moves do you expect the Mets to make for next year? It was again another subpar season for the bullpen. Do you feel anyone is guaranteed a job as of right now that is already there, especially with the struggles of Frank Francisco, Ramon Ramirez and Manny Acosta?
-- Ron C., Rio Rancho, N.M.
Francisco will be back on his $6.5 million guaranteed contract. As long as Bobby Parnell is not traded, he will be back as well. Ramirez is a goner via free agency, while Acosta should be non-tendered.
The rest of the bullpen will be a combination of young players fighting for jobs (Josh Edgin, Robert Carson, Jeurys Familia et al) and free agent or trade acquisitions. As for the latter group, expect the Mets to employ the same strategy they did last year: acquire as many reasonably cheap arms as they can in the hopes that one or two establish themselves.
Don't expect the Mets to allocate any significant resources to their bullpen overhaul, at least with respect to the payroll as a whole. Established relievers such as Joakim Soria may be at the high end of their wish list, while anyone cheaper would come with significant blemishes. Such are the repercussions of a limited budget.
A lot of trade possibilities include Wright, Jon Niese and Dickey. How hot of a commodity can Ike Davis prove to be?
-- Paul G., Amsterdam, N.Y.
Scorching, should the Mets decide to trade him. It's not every day that a first baseman with proven 30-homer pop, under team control for three more seasons, becomes available on the trade market. For those reasons, I'm still skeptical the Mets will look to deal Davis unless they are approached with a significant offer.
Given the utter lack of power in their lineup, along with the uncertainty that Duda could successfully replace Davis as their everyday first baseman, the Mets cannot afford to make a mistake on Davis this winter. If they trade him, they need to win the trade. It's that simple.
With at least Johan Santana and Dillon Gee coming back and all the young pitching getting ready to break in, who do you think the Mets' starting five will be in 2013?
-- John C., Staten Island
Barring trades or injuries, it will be Dickey, Niese, Matt Harvey, Santana and Gee in some order. Then again, Harvey is the only one of that bunch not at significant risk of injury or trade, which just goes to show how fickle starting pitching can be. Depth is critical, and the Mets are fortunate to have a measure of it.