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Inbox: Will Wilmer get chance to start at 2B?

Beat reporter Anthony DiComo answers fans' questions
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

With the official start of Spring Training now three weeks away, the Mets -- like most teams in this offseason's slow market -- aren't quite done shopping. They're still on the lookout for a second baseman, likely the last piece of their offseason maneuvering. But what about the second baseman they already have? This week's Mets Inbox starts there:

Why isn't Wilmer Flores being given a chance to start at second base?
-- @JayZammie via Twitter

With the official start of Spring Training now three weeks away, the Mets -- like most teams in this offseason's slow market -- aren't quite done shopping. They're still on the lookout for a second baseman, likely the last piece of their offseason maneuvering. But what about the second baseman they already have? This week's Mets Inbox starts there:

Why isn't Wilmer Flores being given a chance to start at second base?
-- @JayZammie via Twitter

The Mets, quite simply, feel Flores is more effective as a part-time player. Although he bristles at the notion that he is best served as a platoon bat, his career splits (an .838 OPS against left-handed pitching, .683 against righties) speak for themselves. Yes, Flores had a fine season against right-handed pitching in 2017, but even that performance was roughly league average before taking into account his below-average defense. And one-year splits are notoriously unreliable.

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Add in Flores' injury history -- hamstring, wrist, knee and other issues in just the past two seasons -- and the Mets simply don't think it's worthwhile to count on him as an everyday starter. Flores will still receive plenty of reps at first and second base. He's a strong bet to appear in at least 100 games for the fourth consecutive year, and he rates as a bona fide bench bat on a playoff-caliber team.

Flores just won't be the everyday starter. Who will? It's looking more and more like a free agent is the answer, with Neil Walker, Eduardo Nunez and Jose Reyes the three most prominent options at the position. The Mets could still sign a third baseman such as Todd Frazier, shifting Asdrubal Cabrera over to second, but that isn't their preference. They could also swing a trade for someone such as Josh Harrison, but they aren't thrilled with what it would cost them in terms of talent.

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Video: Castrovince, Justice discuss Mets' 2B options

Do any of the arms acquired during last year's trades have a chance to really contribute in 2018?
-- @jbmsgice via Twitter

A few. Jacob Rhame and Jamie Callahan, acquired in the Curtis Granderson and Addison Reed deals, respectively, have already cracked the Majors and will compete for jobs in the Opening Day bullpen. They're both likely to log significant innings in 2018.

Outside of those two, the Mets invited Drew Smith, of the Lucas Duda trade, to big league Spring Training. He's next up as far as big league readiness, and he could also parlay a strong spring into a roster spot.

Video: NYM@HOU: Callahan records his first career out

Are we going with seven or eight relievers?
-- @Bennymycat via Twitter

The days of seven-man bullpens are close to an end -- not just for the Mets, but for most teams around baseball. With relief pitchers eating up more and more of the daily innings pie, seven-man bullpens are simply too thin to survive the rigors of a 162-game season. The Mets used an eight-man bullpen for much of last season and I suspect they'll do so for most, if not all, of this one.

Do you see any world where the Mets' reported projected payroll numbers are partially posturing, and general manager Sandy Alderson will surprise us by upgrading the roster in several areas last-minute on team-friendly deals as players scramble to find homes?
-- @jonhurwitz via Twitter

Payroll is never a static number. Alderson can always go to ownership and ask for more money in special circumstances. But it has to make sense within the team's overall budget and plan. The Mets aren't going to go out and randomly spend eight figures on, say, Jonathan Lucroy, when they've already decided that catcher isn't a priority. If Lucroy's price drops far enough to make him a bargain, other teams would almost certainly be more motivated to sign him than the Mets.

Now, if the Mets can find a good last-minute deal on a starting pitcher, would they take it? That's a much more realistic possibility. But doing so might handicap their ability to absorb salary at the Trade Deadline. Every financial move has consequences on others, both short- and long-term.

What's the timetable for T.J. Rivera?
-- @SusanKinsella1 via Twitter

At last check, Rivera was hoping to be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery in mid-April, which would be a full seven months after his Tommy John surgery. Position players don't generally need as much time to recover from Tommy John as their pitcher cousins, who typically require 12 to 18 months.

Video: NYM@SD: Rivera makes a tough catch in foul ground

But that's a best-case scenario for Rivera, whose rehab could easily leak into May or June. The Mets are conservatively projecting a midsummer return. Ultimately, it could happen at any point in the first half.

What do you see with Tim Tebow in the future?
-- @robbie5687 via Twitter

More of the same, quite frankly. I don't think it's unreasonable to assume he'll continue improving, as he did throughout last season. Tebow will probably start out at Class A Advanced St. Lucie, where he hit just .231 with a .664 OPS last season.

Video: Mets invite Tim Tebow to Major League Spring Training

Those numbers will need to improve markedly if Tebow is to advance to Double-A, where the competition is significantly stiffer. The usual disclaimer is that, at age 30, it's unlikely Tebow will ever improve enough to become a big leaguer. But stranger things have happened, and the Mets have demonstrated a willingness to push Tebow forward even when the numbers suggest they probably shouldn't. In that sense, your guess is as good as mine regarding Tebow's long-term future.

When do the Mets move their Triple-A team from Las Vegas to Syracuse?
-- @Nostraskel via Twitter

That move won't happen until 2019. The Mets are entering the final year of their affiliation with Las Vegas.

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

New York Mets, Wilmer Flores, T.J. Rivera