Inbox: Who is the next option after Zobrist?
Beat reporter Anthony DiComo answers Mets fans' questions
Though the Hot Stove hasn't yet thawed for the Mets, who have made nothing more than a pair of Minor League signings since the World Series ended, that's about to change. The first significant offseason dominoes have already fallen on the starting pitching side, with the Tigers giving Jordan Zimmermann a five-year, $110 million contract and the Red Sox topping it with a seven-year, $217 million deal for David Price. Top hitters, including the Mets' primary target, Ben Zobrist, should soon follow.
With that in mind, and the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., now just days away, it's time for a new batch of Mets questions and answers.
If the Mets do not get Zobrist, where would they go next to fill the second base/utility void that Daniel Murphy left?
-- @mBLASzKa via Twitter
How about Murphy himself? The market for him should heat up once Zobrist signs, and the Mets could involve themselves if his price drops enough.
More realistically, however, the decision to tender Ruben Tejada a contract hints at the fact that you may be looking at status quo in the middle infield. If Spring Training started today, Wilmer Flores and Dilson Herrera would enter camp as the presumptive starting shortstop and second baseman, respectively, though I suspect Matt Reynolds and Tejada would have chances to haggle for playing time. If that doesn't work, the Mets could try to fix things before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
It's important to note that what the Mets value here is versatility. They won't go out and sign an everyday second baseman such as Howie Kendrick, in part because they don't want to block Herrera. That's what makes Zobrist such a great fit -- he's capable of playing third base and both corner outfield positions, in addition to second. Murphy is versatile to some extent, but his lack of outfield ability puts him a significant notch below Zobrist.
Will Michael Conforto be given more at-bats against lefties in 2016? I'd imagine he'll be our everyday left fielder, right?
-- @barbitosfritos via Twitter
Right. And unlike this summer, when the Mets tried to shield Conforto from left-handed pitchers because they weren't completely sold on Conforto's big league readiness, he should receive plenty of chances against them in 2016. While Lucas Duda proved this year that he no longer needs a platoon mate, Curtis Granderson appears to require one, and at age 35 he will need regular off-days anyway. That means the more Conforto can produce against lefties, the more the Mets can concentrate on using Michael Cuddyer's playing time in place of Granderson.
Why have the Mets had so much trouble trading for a shortstop? Lack of candidates? Price too steep?
-- @deeringcrossfit via Twitter
In reality, it's a combination of both, coupled with the conservative nature of this front office. Last offseason, the Mets looked long and hard at plenty of candidates, but they weren't convinced any of them outside of Troy Tulowitzki represented a clear upgrade over Flores. And Tulowitzki was far too expensive for a team that doesn't like trading away premium starting pitching.
This offseason, not much has changed. The Mets could try to deal for Boston's Xander Bogaerts, but that would cost one of their young, controllable starting pitchers. Outside of that, not much is available. The next best option is probably free agent Ian Desmond, but New York has shown no willingness to give a 30-year-old shortstop something approaching a nine-figure deal. So the team will most likely turn to Flores once again, with Reynolds waiting in the wings.
It seems most fans have given up on Juan Lagares being the everyday center fielder. Is the organization in the same mindset? Is there hope for him to win the job again? Rumors show them looking for a platoon partner for him.
-- Anthony K., East Brunswick, N.J.
Even if the Mets wanted to give up on Lagares, they can't, because his $23 million extension doesn't kick in until the start of next season. No one is taking on that contract after witnessing Lagares' down year in 2015 both offensively and defensively.
That said, the fact that the Mets are more likely to seriously pursue Denard Span or Gerardo Parra than Dexter Fowler, a clear everyday player, speaks volumes about Lagares. They want him to play at least some of the time, and in a perfect world he'd win a full-time job back before long. So while there's no doubt Lagares has fallen out of favor with the Mets, his career in New York is not close to complete.
Do you expect the Mets to sign a left-handed reliever for the 2016 bullpen? Also, possibly a solid setup man as well?
-- @Waegalicious via Twitter
They don't have to be mutually exclusive. If the Mets sign a standout lefty such as Tony Sipp or Antonio Bastardo, he could form a strong back-end trio with Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia. That would result in a relatively expensive bullpen for a team that rarely spends much in this area, prompting the club to fill out with the likes of Sean Gilmartin, Erik Goeddel, Hansel Robles and others. Given their need for a lefty, such a situation seems far more likely than the Mets shelling out additional dollars for Darren O'Day or Joakim Soria.