Welcome to another Hot Stove season. Sandy Alderson is due to report to the General Managers Meetings next week in Florida, where discussions with teams and agents often begin to gain traction. Until then, here's an early look at some of the offseason's pressing questions for the Mets.
What are the odds that the Mets trade for Dee Gordon?
I usually don't delve into queries regarding specific players because, to be honest, these things are fluid. The Mets won't pin their hopes on any single player in the free-agent or trade markets. They'll target a class of players and pursue multiple options within that tier before settling on a fit that works.
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But I'd like to use this question as a jumping-off point for how the Mets plan to approach this offseason. To answer it directly, the odds the Mets trade for Gordon are low. Just because the Marlins are reportedly looking to shed salary does not mean they are going to just give away their top players for free. Want to deal Amed Rosario for Gordon? Derek Jeter will probably return your phone call. Short of that, the Mets just don't have the type of prospect capital necessary to outbid other teams.
Moreover, they don't have much budget flexibility to acquire a player like Gordon, who is guaranteed $37.9 million over the next three seasons. Before signing a single free agent, the Mets are on the hook to pay their top 21 players about $119 million in salary -- a figure that includes all their guaranteed contracts, estimated arbitration raises using MLB Trade Rumors' figures, and league-minimum deals for everyone else. Alderson has already said he went over budget on last year's $156 million Opening Day payroll, with a promise to sell off pieces -- Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson et al -- if the team fell out of contention. Based on Alderson's comments, it is difficult to imagine the Mets surpassing that $156 million figure in 2018. More likely, they will clock in lower.
That leaves the Mets with about $30 million to spend -- in a perfect world -- on four acquisitions: one infielder, one outfield/first base hybrid, one starter and one reliever. If Gordon sucks up $10 million in 2017 salary, that leaves $20 million for three players while hamstringing them even further in future seasons.
Perhaps the Mets can splurge at one position, but it's easier to see them doing so in the rotation or bullpen than at second base, where they can more easily find a bargain. They may need to swing a creative trade at some point. They may need to sign a reclamation project and cross their fingers. The point is, the Mets are not just going to spend their way out of their problems.
Should the Mets commit to Dominic Smith as their regular first baseman?
Smith is going to have a chance to win the starting job in Spring Training, but he didn't do enough to guarantee himself that spot heading into the offseason. The Mets already have Wilmer Flores as insurance, and they would love to acquire an outfielder with first-base experience as an additional hedge. That should cover them in the event that Smith is not ready.
What does the smart money suggest regarding the possible contributions Matt Harvey and David Wright can make to the team this year, and what new roles could they adjust to if necessary?
I actually think too many people are overlooking Harvey's potential contributions. I'm not saying he'll ever be a star again -- he almost certainly won't. But if he can stay on the field for 150 innings, he's a good bet to be useful. He is one of the few players on the Mets' roster capable of significant improvement.
Wright is more of a question mark. He may play in dozens of games. He may not play at all. The Mets would love for him to contribute, but they aren't counting on it the way they are counting on Harvey.
As for position switches, Wright has already discussed the possibility of trying some first base in 2018. But Harvey will start if he's healthy and effective. If he's not, heading to the bullpen won't do him any good.
Can you see T.J. Rivera as the starting second baseman, or can you see the team going the free agent/trade route?
Definitely the latter. There are no guarantees that Rivera will be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery by Opening Day. The Mets have to -- and will -- find someone else to play the position. If they acquire a third baseman this winter, it will be Asdrubal Cabrera.
Any injury updates on our starting pitchers? Will they all be ready for Spring Training, or could we see some of them out for an extended period of time?
As of right now, there is no indication any of the Mets' top seven starters won't be ready for February. A far more significant test will be what happens once that group begins ramping things up come spring.
I keep hearing that Mickey Callaway likes curveballs over sliders. What does this mean for pitchers like Noah Syndergaard, who are known for their sliders?
One thing Indians pitchers have stressed about Callaway is that he's not a one-size-fits-all type of instructor. Yes, he preached curveballs in Cleveland, and there is anecdotal evidence in favor of that strategy, both from run prevention and injury prevention standpoints. But that doesn't mean Callaway is just going to force Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom to ditch their highly effective sliders.
I suspect Callaway, in his new role, will continue to stress curveball usage to his pitchers. He'll also give new pitching coach Dave Eiland plenty of latitude to incorporate his own philosophies while still catering his message to each individual pitcher. The idea is not to jam square pegs into round holes. Every pitcher is different; something that worked well for Corey Kluber may not necessarily be the answer for Steven Matz.