Mets have much to accomplish with camp looming
NEW YORK -- Your presents are unwrapped, your eggnog is curdling and your noisemakers are back in the basement gathering dust. It's a new year, with the dawn of Spring Training less than six weeks away.
For the Mets, that means a hectic month, with much to accomplish. Though the team finished 2013 with a flourish, fleshing out the roster with Chris Young, Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon, holes remain. General manager Sandy Alderson has made a habit of waiting until late January and even into February to import significant pieces, and this offseason appears to be no different.
So at the start of the new year, it's time to take another look at the Mets' most pressing areas of need.
Shortstop: Alderson said last month that he does not envision the Mets acquiring a shortstop through free agency, a not-so-subtle way to shift Stephen Drew off the public's radar. Since then, agent Scott Boras has reportedly kept communication lines open, though that only means so much. Boras may be asking the Mets to stretch beyond their comfort zone for Drew, or he could simply be trying to drive up the price for the Red Sox.
If Drew falls into the Mets' lap at an acceptable price, then that solves that. If not, Alderson will continue to seek out trade partners knowing that the price for young, controllable shortstops is high. The most likely scenario involves Ruben Tejada reprising his role as the starting shortstop, receiving a second chance to prove his worth as an everyday player.
Rotation: With Colon, Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee in place, the Mets need to find a cheap starter to give them innings until top prospect Noah Syndergaard arrives. Although such back-end types as Chris Capuano and Jerome Williams would make sense for the Mets, those players could balk at the prospect of being seat-warmers for Syndergaard.
Instead, expect the Mets to explore Minor Leaguers or to consider incentive-laden deals for such pitchers as Daisuke Matsuzaka or Scott Baker. But that market may not form until Masahiro Tanaka, Matt Garza and this winter's other top free agents go off the board.
Bullpen: Like the rotation, the bullpen is unlikely to be completely settled until the late weeks of January. Expect the Mets to bring in several pitchers on Minor League deals, as well as at least one veteran who has late-inning experience. But don't expect them to spend much in this area, following the blueprint they established last winter with Brandon Lyon and LaTroy Hawkins.
Bench: The Mets could use a backup middle infielder to replace Justin Turner, though Tejada may ultimately be that guy if Drew comes to Flushing. In other words, this is yet another question that may remain unanswered deep into January.
The team also has space for a veteran catcher to back up Travis d'Arnaud, though the Mets were satisfied enough with what Anthony Recker provided last year to give him another chance in that role. Monday's signing of Taylor Teagarden is unlikely to affect things.
There are additional issues the Mets still must address -- most notably, what to do with redundant first basemen Ike Davis and Lucas Duda -- and those could play into the needs above. For example, if the Mets trade Davis for a pitching prospect, that could free them to flip one of their other young arms for a shortstop.
And that is why the offseason is long. With officially 40 days before pitchers and catchers report to Port St. Lucie, Fla., the Mets have much on their offseason agenda left to accomplish.