So, the Eric Young Era has begun in Queens. It's almost as momentous as the Zack Wheeler era. Ok, of course that is untrue, but actually, it might matter too.

I made the chart below in part to make sure I understood what was going on the backend of the Mets' roster in the last few days.

[sny-table rowheader=true columnheader=true]

Date;In;Out;40-Man Implications?

16-Jun;;Collin McHugh; Yes.

16-Jun;Carlos Torres;Greg Burke;Yes. Torres subs for McHugh spot

18-Jun;Scott Atchison;Justin Turner;No. Turner to 15-Day DL (L intercostal Strain)

18-Jun;Zack Wheeler;;Awesome

19-Jun;;Zack Wheeler;He will be back.

19-Jun;;Collin Cowgill;Yes. Designated

19-Jun;Andrew Brown;Scott Atchison;No. Brown on 40-man. Atchison to the DL (sore right groin)

19-Jun;Eric Young;Collin McHugh;Yes. Young subs for Cowgill

[/sny-table]

Again, to summarize, Carlos Torres replaced Greg Burke, who was optioned to Las Vegas, and remains in the organization. The cost to this move, was that the Mets had to clear space on the 40-man roster by designating Collin McHugh for assignment. It was easy to be negative about designating McHugh but turning him into Eric Young, as the team did three days later is a net win.

Scott Atchison came and went, injuring himself without throwing a pitch, poor guy. Originally, Atchison replaced Justin Turner on the roster, but Atchison was eventually replaced by Andrew Brown.

To add Eric Young to the roster, the Mets cleared space by designating Collin Cowgill for assignment. I like the Eric Young acquisition, even for the price of McHugh and Cowgill, a whole lot more than I expected.

In 2013, MLB centerfielders have average a .258/.321/.405 batting line. The Mets have hit .193/.234/.328 (!) placing #30 among the 30 MLB franchises in OPS at .563. This is not about the leadoff spot. This is about a position performing and failing. The Mets tried one stopgap in Rick Ankiel, and that was a waste.

Young, who turned 28 at the end of May, and was designated by the Rockies, is fast and most importantly, was a useful hitter as far back as a season ago, achieving a level of production in center field that exceeded the contributions of every other member of the 2013 Mets. In 2012, Young hit a career-best .316/.377/.448 on his way to a 1.7 WAR in 98 games. Of course, that line was supported by an unsustainable .367 batting average on balls in play. As a speedy guy, Young should have a higher than average BABIP, but not that well.

Fast-forward to 2013, and Young got himself designated for assignment by hitting .243/.289/.349. His performance indicates a little decline from last year as his walk rate has slipped a touch from 6.6% to 6.0%, his strikeout rate has inched up from 15.8% to 18.% and his isolated slugging has slipped from .132 to .107 this year year. But the key component is that his BABIP dropped from .367 all the way to .299. His line drive percentage is essentially unchanged at 19%, but his groundball percentage is up 5%, taking a similar bite out of his flyball rate. Basically, Young is a few flyballs, and thus a few flyballs dropping in for hits away from last year's viable production.

Was 2012 a one-year aberation for Young? Well, yeah. He hit .247/.342/.298 in 229 PA in the big leagues in 2011. Still, 2012, when Young was an average enough MLB centerfielder (115 wRC+), happened. Adding Young at the cost of McHugh is a fine risk.

I was initially disappointed when the Mets' designated McHugh. He is an easy guy to root for: he's as nice a guy as you will meet in baseball, he writes well, and his tweets are funny. Here's the problem: he has not been a good big league pitcher. Over 28.1 innings, an admittedly small sample, he's allowed 39 hits, seven (!) homeruns and 29 runs overall, 26 earned on the way to a 8.26 ERA. His combined performance in AAA (mixing Buffalo and Las Vegas) is significantly better: 3.19 ERA, 3.4 K/BB ratio is much better. McHugh averages 90.8 mph on his fastball. He mixes in a 89 mph two-seamer, a cutter at 85 mph, a slider at 83 mph and a curve at 75 mph (all averages). That arsenal, thus far, has been enough to keep AAA hitters off-balance, but not big leaguers. He just cannot make a mistake anywhere near the middle of the plate with his pure stuff. Big leaguers even hit some of his reasonably well-located pitches hard.

In the abstract, if the Mets purely needed to create a 40-man roster spot, dropping McHugh and keeping both Hansel Robles and Gonzelez Germen seemed like the team was keeping two inferior players. Even swapping out the 25-year old Burke from the active roster and McHugh from the 40-man roster for the 30-year-old Torres, who own a career 5.71 MLB ERA in 99.1 innings did not seem like an obvious improvement. After all, Torres has walked 53 (11.9%) of his 447 MLB batters. A few nice starts in AAA Vegas aside, he hardly looks like an important piece of a winning bullpen. Greg Burke has pitched better at the big league level more recently. I would suggest that eventually, he will replace Torres at the back end of the bullpen.

However, if the choice is between holding McHugh on the team's 40-man roster and turning him into a guy who was a staring caliber outfielder for one year, and can help the Mets address their black hole in centerfield, that sure seems like a win. Even if Young, who has performed more like a fourth/fifth outfielder performance over a his entire big league tenure becomes that, well, that too addresses a Mets' weakness for relatively little cost.

The other roster casualty was Collin Cowgill and his .180/.206/.311 performance in 63 plate appearances. Overall, in 279 MLB plate appearances, Cowgill, who just turned 27, has hit .237/.294/.311 for a 67 wRC+. That's not really a major league hitter.

 

So again, in terms of 40-man allocation the Mets went from McHugh/Cowgill to Torres/Young. That looks like a small marginal improvement. Of course, it might be no improvement at all or so small as to be imperceptible, but it is worth a shot.

All of this is starting to look like the Mets are entering a phase of their rebuilding where they are not just jettisoning the useless, but looking to acquire players who can help on the cheap. Most of the time it has not worked (Ankiel, Cowgill), but the churn, and the team's willingness to walk away from mistakes, gives them chances to find something useful.


Dec 6, 2016; National Harbor, MD, USA; A sign on day two of the 2016 Baseball Winter Meetings at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 6, 2016; National Harbor, MD, USA; A sign on day two of the 2016 Baseball Winter Meetings at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It was a newsless Winter Meetings for the Mets, as it was for most teams, but it certainly wasn't quiet. In the end, the Mets held a lot of meetings where they talked with agents and team representatives for a variety of relief pitchers open to accepting major- and minor-league deals.

In an effort to free up a roster spot, raise money and have fewer left-handed hitting outfielders, the Mets spent time talking with teams about Jay Bruce, though they reportedly saw more interest in Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto, which is understandable.

In the end, I expect the Mets will eventually trade Bruce and one of two things will happen, 1) They'll get back a big-league reliever making a decent salary, after which they'll use the difference to sign one or two more low-cost relievers, or 2) They'll trade Bruce for nothing, and use his entire $13 million to sign someone like Brad Ziegler, as well as one or two more low-cost relievers.

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Sandy Alderson is surrounded by reporters during the 2013 MLB Winter Meetings (Credit: Manning-USA TODAY Sports)
Sandy Alderson is surrounded by reporters during the 2013 MLB Winter Meetings (Credit: Manning-USA TODAY Sports)

Sandy Alderson conducted his final briefing with reporters at the Winter Meetings early Thursday and said he is confident the Mets laid groundwork that will continue through the winter.

"Conversations will continue," he explained.

He reiterated that his desire to trade an outfielder has more to do with playing time than it is motivated by raising money by shedding payroll. 

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MLB's annual Rule 5 Draft will take place on Thursday, concluding the MLB Winter Meetings...

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Andy Martino on Winter Meetings 00:03:57
Andy Martino discusses the latest from the Winter Meetings including the Nats-White Sox Trade, Yankees, Mets and Wade Davis to the Cubs.

MetsBlog's Matthew Cerrone and Robert Brender recorded their final Winter Meetings Podcast, during which they answered questions about Andrew McCutchen, Dexter Fowler, Jose Abreu, what's going on with the Nationals, what will happen to Jay Bruce, Sandy Alderson's bullpen, and if Darrelle Revis will play in the AFL...

To listen in a seperare pop-up player, click here, or use the audio player below...

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Alderson on the Mets' outlook 00:02:51
Steve Gelbs chats with Sandy Alderson to discuss the progress the Mets have made at the Winter Meetings and their remaining offseason plans.

Sandy Alderson talked with reporters late Wednesday and said, while he doesn't know that he'll make any deals before the end of the Winter Meetings, he's made progress in talks with teams and agents that he hopes will benefit the Mets before the end of the offseason.

Alderson also had the following to say about...

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McCutchen (22) at bat at PNC Park (Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
McCutchen (22) at bat at PNC Park (Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

The Nationals, who had reportedly shown interest in Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen, will acquire White Sox OF Adam Eaton for prospects Lucas Giolito, Dane Dunning and Reynaldo Lopezaccording to multiple reports.

In this case, I really, really hope the Mets use this opportunity to get in on McCutchen.

The Rangers, Dodgers, Mariners and a "mystery team" have all recently asked about McCutchen, according to reports on MLB Trade Rumors. The Nationals had been reportedly pursuing him since last summer.

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Aug 4, 2016; Bruce (19) celebrates a three run home run with Granderson (3) (Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
Aug 4, 2016; Bruce (19) celebrates a three run home run with Granderson (3) (Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Dec 7 | 3:20 PM

The Mets met with the Rangers on Wednesday, according to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan.


Matthew Cerrone: In addition to starting pitching, the Rangers have reportedly been looking to acquire a corner outfielder or Designated Hitter, such as Jay Bruce. At the same, I've heard from MLB insiders that they've been offering up RH reliever Jeremy Jeffress, who the Mets had interest in acquiring last summer before he was dealt from the Brewers to Rangers with Jonathan Lucroy. It's worth also noting that Texas still has Lucroy, who the Mets were trying to trade for last summer, as well, despite saying they were committed to Travis d'Arnaud. I see no evidence that the Rangers are looking to deal Lucroy. But, if they are, I assume the Mets would be intrigued, despite again saying they're commited to d'Arnaud.

Tags: Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce
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Aug 4, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox relief pitcher David Robertson (30) pitches against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports (Rick Osentoski)
Aug 4, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox relief pitcher David Robertson (30) pitches against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports (Rick Osentoski)

In the wake of trading Chris Sale to the Red Sox, multiple reports indicate the White Sox have started shopping several of their high-priced players.

So far, I have yet to read or hear of any rumors connecting the Mets to the White Sox. However, Chicago clearly has players that should be of interest to Sandy Alderson, specifically closer David Robertson and 1B Jose Abreu. 

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Wheels in motion 00:02:52
Jon Hein and Marc Malusis discuss the Mets' plan of action for Zack Wheeler, including his possible use out of the bullpen.

Zack Wheeler spoke about his health and a potential move to the bullpen during an appearance at the Mets' annual coat drive at Citi Field on Wednesday.

The 26-year-old said he threw about three weeks ago and will do so again around Christmas in what he called a "normal offseason," according to Joe Trezza of MLB.com. Wheeler added that he has not felt pain since April and that "this is the best he's felt."

He was also open to the idea of moving to the bullpen to start 2017, something Mets GM Sandy Alderson mentioned prior to the start of the Winter Meetings this past Sunday.

 

Tags: Zack Wheeler
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Free-agent OF Dexter Fowler, Royals OF Lorenzo Cain and Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen (USA Today Images)
Free-agent OF Dexter Fowler, Royals OF Lorenzo Cain and Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen (USA Today Images)

The price on position players -- especially outfielders -- is going down by the minute, according to multiple MLB market markers.

The top-tier, free-agent market includes outfielders Dexter Fowler, Jose Bautista and Ian Desmond, while the trade market reportedly includes Andrew McCutchen (Pirates), Charlie Blackmon (Rockies), Adam Eaton (White Sox), Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson (Royals), Odubel Herrera (Phillies) and Jay Bruce (Mets), among others.

"If I'm Fowler, I give up making $18-20 million a season and quickly grab one of those four-year, $60 million offers, because it might not be there if he waits," a team executive told me.

In regards to the Mets, this doesn't bode well for wanting to trade Bruce. And, it probably explains why reports now indicate Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto are off the table. Because, if prices are dropping, it's not worth moving them.

Tags: Jay Bruce, Matthew Cerrone
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Jay Bruce (19) has dominated the Mets news cycle during the Winter Meetings (USA TODAY Sports)
Jay Bruce (19) has dominated the Mets news cycle during the Winter Meetings (USA TODAY Sports)

Mets GM Sandy Alderson should have at least one or two reasonable trades on the table for OF Jay Bruce, according to teams that have talked with the Mets.

However, because he's comfortable with slow-playing the free-agent market for relief pitchers, Alderson appears totally fine holding off on dealing Bruce for an arm, while letting the outfield market play out and revisiting his options during December.

"Things are generally slow," Alderson explained Tuesday, talking to reporters. "Hopefully things start to loosen up a little bit. ...Clubs are still trying to figure out exactly what they think is exactly the best way to go. The contours of the market are still a little bit vague, so you don't see a lot of movement."

Tags: Jay Bruce, Matthew Cerrone
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 (Geoff Burke)
(Geoff Burke)

Tuesday's News and Rumors...

The Mets contacted the Royals about closer Wade Davis >> Read more!

The Mets also may have interest in free-agent relievers Matt Belisle, Joe Blanton, Junichi Tazawa, Drew Storen and Boone Logan, as Jerry Blevins is seeking a three-year deal >> Read more!

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he and his staff are planning to change the workload and routine of their starting pitchers >> Read more!

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Oct 17, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Wade Davis (17) and center fielder Lorenzo Cain (6) celebrates after beating the Toronto Blue Jays in game two of the ALCS at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports (Denny Medley)
Oct 17, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Wade Davis (17) and center fielder Lorenzo Cain (6) celebrates after beating the Toronto Blue Jays in game two of the ALCS at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports (Denny Medley)

Dec 7 | 6:15 AM

The Mets asked the Royals about closer Wade Davisbut were asked to part with elite SS prospect Amed Rosario, who the team considers untouchable, according to Daily News reporter Kristie Ackert.

Instead, the Cubs are close to acquiring Davis for 24-year-old OF Jorge Soleraccording to multiple reports on MLB Trade Rumors.

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Sandy Alderson is surrounded by reporters during the 2013 MLB Winter Meetings (Credit: Manning-USA TODAY Sports)
Sandy Alderson is surrounded by reporters during the 2013 MLB Winter Meetings (Credit: Manning-USA TODAY Sports)

The Mets are not yet willing to pay some of Curtis Granderson's $15 million salary or Jay Bruce's $13 million salary to help trade them during this week's Winter Meetings.

"Not at this point," Alderson said Monday, when specifically asked about the scenario.

Alderson is not usually this vague, though, which makes me think he'll eventually give in. However, right now, it's early enough in the off season that he isn't feeling desperate. Instead, I'm hearing they're more likely to give up a prospect or two in the deal, so the acquiring team is incentivized to absorb Bruce's $13 million.

Remember, the goal here is to a acquire as many relief pitchers as possible before the start of spring training, and I see Alderson eventually getting his men one of the following ways...

Tags: Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, Matthew Cerrone
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Nov 4, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler (24) talks during the World Series victory rally in Grant Park. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Wierzbicki)
Nov 4, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler (24) talks during the World Series victory rally in Grant Park. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Wierzbicki)

The Mets are not trading both Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce so they can sign free-agent OF Dexter Fowlera high-ranking team official told SNY's Steve Gelbs.

This is disappointing, if true. I'm sure it is, but I also know Mets GM Sandy Alderson and his front office tend to make statements based on what's happening at that specific moment, and it does not necessarily recognize where things are headed.

Remember, Alderson and his staff repeatedly told reporters that the Mets wouldn't release Jason Bay, Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez, nor would they be trading Carlos Beltran and RA Dickey, and they eventually did all of the above. I'm not saying the Mets will sign Fowler, or trade both Bruce or Granderson, I'm simply suggesting that we all take what they say with a grain of salt... because things have a way of changing as the environment changes around them...

That said, this is exactly the move I want to see the Mets make.

Tags: Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, Matthew Cerrone
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MNoah Syndergaard (34), Jacob deGrom (48) and Matt Harvey (33) walk in from the bullpen at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
MNoah Syndergaard (34), Jacob deGrom (48) and Matt Harvey (33) walk in from the bullpen at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

For the second time this offseason, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he and his staff are planning to change the workload and routine of their starting pitchers, he told reporters Tuesday at the Winter Meetings.

Last month, Alderson said he is open to occasionally using a six-man rotation and mixing in spot starters so guys can get extended rest between appearances.

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler
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Robert Gsellman pitches against the Braves last Tuesday in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) (Kathy Willens/AP)
Robert Gsellman pitches against the Braves last Tuesday in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) (Kathy Willens/AP)

Teams have asked about RHP Robert Gsellman, but Sandy Alderson has told them he's not available, sources told ESPN.com's Adam Rubin.

Gsellman, 23, had a 2.42 ERA (2.63 FIP) and 1.27 WHIP, while striking out 42 batters in 44 2/3 innings, during seven starts and one relief appearance for the Mets in 2016.

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Zack Wheeler
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Free-agent relievers Fernando Salas, Brad Ziegler, Joaquin Benoit and Joe Smith (Credit: USA Today Images)
Free-agent relievers Fernando Salas, Brad Ziegler, Joaquin Benoit and Joe Smith (Credit: USA Today Images)

Dec 6 | 4:00PM

Free-agent LH reliever Jerry Blevins is seeking a three-year deal worth $5-6 million a season, MLB.com's Anthony DiComo reported on Twitter.

"If Blevins is willing to do a two-year deal, maybe Sandy Alderson can reel him back," MetsBlog's Matthew Cerrone wrote Nov. 22. "But, if Blevins finds himself eventually weighing three-year offers, I bet Alderson passes and, instead, signs a veteran or two on minor-league deals."

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Tebow during an Arizona Fall League game at Camelback Ranch (Credit: Mark J. Rebilas via USA Today)
Tebow during an Arizona Fall League game at Camelback Ranch (Credit: Mark J. Rebilas via USA Today)

The Mets haven't decided whether OF Tim Tebow will be invited to play in big league games during Spring Training, GM Sandy Alderson said Tuesday.

"That's a decision we'll make some time in the near future," Alderson said, adding that there's "no benefit" to having him in big league camp.

Mets manager Terry Collins said earlier Tuesday that Tebow would play for the Mets during Grapefruit League games this spring, even if he's in minor-league camp

However, late last month, Tebow would not say if he plans to attend Spring Training.

Tags: Tim Tebow
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Sale of Two Cities 00:02:22
The DNL panel discusses the ramifications of the Chris Sale trade to the Boston Red Sox in a blockbuster move at the Winter Meetings.

The Nationals will not be adding Chris Sale, who is about to be traded to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech and two other prospects, according to FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal.

Earlier Tuesday, Rosenthal said the Nationals would have included RHP prospects Lucas Giolito and Victor Robles in a deal with Chicago. However, they've been reluctant to put them in a deal for Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen, who they've reportedly been pursuing since last summer.

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In honor of Mets media relation executive Shannon Forde, who lost her long, difficult battle with breast cancer last March, MLB announced Monday it will renovate a youth field in Forde's honor in her hometown of Little Ferry, N.J.

"I think a picture says a thousand words," Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said at a press conference at the Winter Meetings. "This is the group that loves and misses Shannon every day."

To raise money for the project, which is part of their annual Play Ball program, MLB is auctioning off a number of unique opportunities, including a pitching lesson from Johnny Cueto, player and manager meet-and-greets, a dinner with Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez.

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