One month from Spring Training, what's left for Mets to do?

January 10th, 2024

NEW YORK -- The Mets aren’t committed to hunting major offensive upgrades. They may or may not still add to their rotation in a meaningful way. But they certainly continue to seek bullpen help.

These were the major takeaways from a question-and-answer session Wednesday with Mets president of baseball operations David Stearns, who participated in a Zoom call to introduce recent signings and . Those two typify the Mets’ strategy this winter, which has been to sign players to short-term deals that won’t hamstring the roster beyond 2024. It has resulted in a league-high payroll of around $320 million, but also a roster that’s not significantly improved on paper.

“There’s no perfect team, and we are not perfect in various segments of our roster,” Stearns said. “So we’re going to stay involved across the board.”

So how might Stearns attack the final month of the offseason? His thoughts on three areas:

The acquisitions of Severino, Adrian Houser and (not yet official, but should be soon) Sean Manaea give the Mets a fully stocked rotation of those three, Kodai Senga and José Quintana. Plenty of depth exists as well in Tylor Megill, Joey Lucchesi, José Butto and (once he recovers from a hip injury) David Peterson. Further down the roster, the Mets employ a slew of near-ready pitching prospects -- a group that includes Mike Vasil (the organization's No. 9 prospect, per MLB Pipeline), Christian Scott (No. 12), Dominic Hamel (No. 16) and Tyler Stuart (No. 17).

Still, Stearns said, “I don’t think you’re ever finished, especially when you’re talking about pitching, especially when you’re talking about starting pitching.”

“I think we’re going to be perpetually on the lookout for ways to improve, ways to get better, ways to add,” the president of baseball operations continued. “I think we’ve made some significant progress. I like the three arms that we’ve added to our starting rotation. But you never have enough starting pitching, so we’ll continue to look.”

If the team does add between now and mid-February, the trade market is -- both logically and reportedly -- the practical avenue to do so. The Mets have not been linked to any of the top remaining free agents, which makes sense given that Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery figure to command the exact sorts of multiyear contracts they’re trying to avoid. If the price falls on a lower-rated pitcher such as Michael Lorenzen or Hyun-Jin Ryu, perhaps the Mets would take a look. More likely, they’ll stand pat unless another club tempts them in the trade market.

Similarly, the Mets intend to be opportunistic about adding to their offense, which means they might not make additional signings here either. Currently, the Mets are looking at a regular outfield alignment of Brandon Nimmo in left field, Bader in center and Starling Marte in right, as well as a DH platoon of DJ Stewart and Mark Vientos. Their bench is mostly set. At third base, Stearns indicated, the team is comfortable giving youngsters Brett Baty and Vientos regular chances.

“I still believe we have options internally on our roster that deserve opportunity,” Stearns said, “and frankly, for the long-term organizational outlook, need opportunity.”

Should the Mets add, they’ve been linked this offseason to J.D. Martinez and Justin Turner, two older former All-Stars who are available on short-terms deals. Stearns went as far as to say he “wouldn’t close the door” on an offensive acquisition. But in the areas he can, Stearns appears committed to seeing what the organization has in its younger players.

“We have to provide young, talented players with opportunity at the Major League level,” Stearns said. “I believe over time as you do that as an organization, you’re rewarded for it, and you get really quality players, solid players who can contribute in your organization for a long time coming through your own system.”

The one area Stearns is committed to upgrading is the bullpen. Although the team has added several relief pitchers already, only one of them -- Jorge López -- is on a fully guaranteed Major League contract. Between now and the start of Spring Training, the Mets figure to add another.

“We are looking at the ‘pen,” Stearns said. “That’s not going to be a surprise to anyone. Finding ways to solidify our bullpen makes some sense.”

Specifically, Stearns said, the Mets could look to sign pitchers who can provide different “looks” -- i.e. arm angles, velocities or repertoires -- than what they already have. Because relievers tend not to sign until January, dozens remain on the open market. As in other areas, the Mets will focus on players willing to accept short-term deals to flesh out a relief corps that currently features Edwin Díaz, Brooks Raley, López and Drew Smith.