This has been one of the strangest Hot Stove seasons I have experienced. It's January and yet there are still so many useful free agents available on the open market.
At the same time, there are multiple, impact players reportedly available in trade, including Manny Machado, Andrew McCutchen, Jason Kipnis, and Cristian Yellich.
Meanwhile, the Mets may have $30 million to spend on new talent, or they may have only $10 million, or maybe it is something in between. I don't know the number, so don't ask. I only know what I see, which is that in the 70 or so days since the markets opened the Mets signed one big-league player, which was a two-year reliever that may or may not be a one-hit wonder. Otherwise, it's been all minor-league deals and rumors that have yet to (and may never) pan out.
Feb. 2015: Sandy Alderson watches a bullpen session at Tradition Field. Credit: USA Today Images
I'm holding out hope, though. I'm skeptical, believe me. I do not expect the Mets to go on a massive spending spray, nor do I expect Alderson to get mega-creative and start making brilliant trades and shifting money around in a way that instantly brings the franchise several steps closer to a championship. But, ya never know... The fact is, there are 42 days until spring training and still dozens of options available via free agency and in trade.
Here are three common questions I've been repeatedly asked on Twitter, e-mail, etc...
Did the Mets try to trade for Manny Machado?
I don't think so. They have enough talent to do it, but it only makes sense to give up Michael Conforto and Jacob deGrom if ownership and Sandy Alderson plans to overpay Machado to re-sign before becoming a free agent in less than a year. To do that, it would likely cost a 10-year, $300 million deal, and there is zero evidence they would be willing to pay that number. There's also no evidence Machado will sign a deal early, since he would be stupid to not fully test the open market.
And yes, deGrom and Conforto, I kid you not. The Orioles supposedly asked the Red Sox for Xander Bogaerts, Drew Pomeranz and one of Boston's top 3 prospects, and Baltimore declined. So, it's possible deGrom and Conforto would not have even been enough, which is why I know no one that believes the Orioles have been serious about moving Machado. Instead, this entire situation reeks of a team hustling to gauge their player's value in advance of likely dealing him next summer, while also seeing if someone will totally overpay to get him now.
Is Jose Reyes going to be back next season?
Two weeks ago, I would have flat-out said, 'No.' However, at the rate this winter is going, and given how the market for second basemen is totally locked up, I'm starting to wonder if Reyes could again become an option. He'll be 34 years old, knows the city, fans and ballpark, and he can play three of four infield positions -- plus he got work in the outfield last season.
He has consistently said he'd love to return next season. Frankly, at this point, Jose's biggest asset may actually be his unconditional love for the organization.
For Alderson, though, a Reyes reunion will have more to do with the overall second base market and less to do with Jose's desire to return. For instance, if Neil Walker signs elsewhere and the Indians decide to keep Jason Kipnis, both of which will push up Pittsburgh's asking price for Josh Harrision, I could see Alderson offering a one-year deal to Reyes, which Jose would likely accept. However, Alderson almost certainly prefers to sign Walker or trade for Kipnis or Harrison... at least as of today.
Are the Mets really going to bring back Neil Walker and Jay Bruce?
It's possible, not probable. I know we keep getting fed rumors about the Mets and Bruce, but I actually think there's a better shot Walker is starting for the Mets next April than Bruce.
I've been saying since August that Bruce would prefer to sign with a team in California or Texas. Last week, his agent actually came right out and said Bruce would love to sign with the Giants, who have money to spend and a need for a corner outfielder that can also play first base. The Rangers are in the same situation. So, between those two teams, plus Toronto, Cleveland, and a few other quieter markets with teams likely to contend, it's hard to imagine Jay taking less to return to New York.
My hunch is Bruce's agent simply views the Mets as leverage. And, honestly, Alderson probably sees Bruce the same way. If for some reason they're both left with nothing but one another, maybe the Mets and Bruce reunite. But, until that happens, I still contend he's most likely to be on the Giants.
That said, there is a really perfect fit for Walker on the Mets. He's been a consistent 2.0-3.0 WAR player the last six seasons, which includes his injury-plagued last two years. Walker is one of the better all-around second basemen in the National League when he is healthy.
Walker, 32, hit .267 with a .409 OBP, four HR, eight doubles and 13 RBI, while starting 33 of 38 games, after being traded by the Mets to the Brewers last summer.
He hit .275 with 33 home runs during his 186 games with the Mets, while mostly playing second base and also getting limited work at third and first base.
He reportedly hoped to sign a three- or four-year deal this winter. But, that is looking less and less likely to happen. There just do not appear to be enough teams eager to add a straight-up second basemen on a multi-year deal. Instead, if he's down for also playing third base, and is willing to take a one-year deal, I think he'll see interest from the Mets, as well as the Yankees, Dodgers, and Brewers. However, in that scenario, he could end up with a two-year, $22-25 million deal, which I'm sure is exactly what Alderson is hoping doesn't happen...
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. He recently left his position as Executive Editor and Dir. of Digital Content for SNY.TV to help sports brands build their own digital content businesses...