Mike Harrington took on the Buffalo Bisons' - the Mets' soon-to-be-former triple-A affiliate - attendance in the Buffalo News over the weekend.

The most important point as far as I'm concerned is that Bisons attendance has been falling fairly steadily, since 1991. That's over two decades of straight slipping. Some years, the declines are larger than others, but the declines are real and consistent.

You know what else has been declining in the last twenty one years? The Buffalo population, which is less than half of its 1950s peak. To be fair, the population of the other major Western New York cities like Syracuse and Rochester has been falling as well. Buffalo is a relatively poor city with a median household income of $30,043 as of the last census, well below the New York State median of $55,603. Perhaps more damning, 30% of Buffalo lived below the poverty level.

Of course, a declining city population and a poorer city are linked phenomenon. As people with the means to do so move out, the existing population becomes poorer. Then, once housing prices fall, in response to weak demand, the migrants into an area become, on average, poorer. This is nicely discussed over a lengthier time horizon for Buffalo here.

So, there are fewer people in Buffalo nearly every year, and the population that remains, is by New York standards, poor.

This is not a good environment for any business, especially one, such as a sports team that relies on citizens spending their disposable income.

Harringon believes that the Bisons' likely pending affiliation with the Jays will help, but that "If the Bisons want to capitalize on 2013, they have to get back to baseball."

I would argue that much of the success of minor league baseball in the last 20 years has been due to the reverse: there really is something for everyone at a game. Just about every stadium boasts a kids' play area, which in some cases are extremely elaborate. And for the adults: solid food and beer that's generally cheaper than in big league parks. The average minor league fan not only cannot name more than a handful of players on their own hometown team, but knows virtually nothing about the team's opponents. In my experience, fans go to minor league games for good times with friends and family (or if the company is having a picnic) but not necessarily for the baseball. Real baseball fans stay home to watch their team, and all of the out-of-market games on high-def on their TV, ipads, laptops and everything else.

Harrington's concrete suggestions:

More Baseball/Honor the Past

  • Honor the great Buffalo teams and players of the past with large colorful concourse banners
  • Put up the team's championship banners
  • Use the videoboard for "old clips of Bisons' historical moments"
  • "Publications needs  to be upgraded (sic)... People will pay for a quality game program"
Color banners of the team's history are a good call. They are relatively cheap and really do improve a stadium space.

More history on the video board is good, but I wonder how much old footage the Bisons have. Footage archives of even MLB teams are shaky. Only in the last few years, has hard drive storage reached a point where archiving everything is almost costless. Either way, this seems unlikely to bring fans to the park on a random Tuesday night.

Finally: publications. Fact: people do not pay for a quality game program. Many teams have stopped producing one because they were simply losing money on the product. Many teams now distribute a smaller program free of charge at the gate. Even for the teams that continue to sell a larger book-type program, it is not a major revenue source and most assuredly will not bring more fans back to the ballpark.

 

Stadium Improvements

  • Add line score via a new auxiliary scoreboard
  • Add new seats. Replace some seats with new party decks/group areas
  • Better lighting in fan areas
  • Other: fix the bathroom sinks, add flat screen tvs at the concession stands, in-park wifi
This is all worthwhile stuff. The better a stadium looks and functions, the more fans are willing to come back. Of course, it all costs money too.

 

Miscellany

  • Eliminate a $1 day of game ticket surcharge
  • Move season seat holders from section 102 (right behind home plate to avoid empty seats on TV)
  • Add Blue Jays gear to the team's merchandise stand
Wait, you want to take the best seats away from season seat holders to avoid empty seats on TV and online streaming? Cart meet horse. Horse, pull cart.

Mike makes some reasonable suggestions. Touching up the stadium and making a more aesthetically appealing place is a really good idea. However, I suspect that even implementing all of his ideas, would result in a negligible effect on attendance.

The bottom line though is that the Bisons, and all of the Western New York teams, are facing a bad demographic environment. That unfortunately, is not anything the teams control.

Given what they can control, I suggest taking a long, hard look at price. For example, create promotional nights that offer not good value, but great value. In Savannah, the Sand Gnats' biggest nights are Fireworks on Saturday, followed by Thirsty Thursday (2-for-1 drinks) and Dollar Monday ($1 tickets with coupon, $1 hot dogs, $1 sodas, $1 small Nattys).

 

Tags: Business of Baseball, Toby Hyde

John Ricco on free agent market 00:02:23
Mets assistant GM John Ricco speaks with Steve Gelbs on the free-agent marketplace at the Winter Meetings.

The Mets have yet to talk with their current crop of starting pitchers about the possibility of signing contract extensions, Mets assistant GM John Ricco told SNY's Mets Hot Stove on Thursday.

"It's something that's certainly in mind when we talk about how we're going to keep this team in tact for the long term, and win in the long term," Ricco said, noting that such discussions usually happen in January and February not December. "But, to date we haven't really engaged at all, though like in the past, if it makes sense we'll aggressively approach them."

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Photo: Chris McShane
Photo: Chris McShane

The Mets again told teams interested in top shortstop prospect Amed Rosario that he is unavailable via trade, GM Sandy Alderson explained to reporters before leaving the Winter Meetings.

For instance, according to Daily News reporter Kristie Ackert, the Royals asked for Rosario when the Mets inquired about Wade Davis, who was eventually traded to the Cubs.

"We've made that clear before and continue to make that clear when his name is mentioned, so I think clubs have gotten the message," Alderson added.

MLB.com, Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus all consider Rosario to be the Mets' top prospect.

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Sep 25, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets right fielder Jay Bruce (19) hits a single during the fifth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
		  (Anthony Gruppuso)
Sep 25, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets right fielder Jay Bruce (19) hits a single during the fifth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports (Anthony Gruppuso)

Dec 9 | 10:00AM

The Mets initially thought the Rangers and Blue Jays were a possible landing spot for Jay Bruce, but - so far - both teams have just limited interest, according to NY Post reporter Mike Puma.


Matthew Cerrone: The market for Bruce will develop after free agents Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista are off the market. The Rangers, Jays, Orioles and Indians are all reportedly interested in Encarnacion and Bautista, but they all can't sign them. Eventually, these two will sign new contracts, leaving two other teams - and the Giants and Dodgers - turning to the trade market to fill their DH and outfield vacancies. 

Tags: Jay Bruce
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Dexter Fowler (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports Images)
Dexter Fowler (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports Images)

The St. Louis Cardinals and free-agent outfielder Dexter Fowler agreed to a deal Thursday night, according to multiple reports.

The team scheduled a press conference for Friday at 11 a.m. ET. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Fowler, 30, hit .276 with 13 home runs and 46 RBIs in 125 games for the Chicago Cubs last season, helping lead them to their first World Series title in 108 years. He earned $13 million last year.

Tags: St. Louis Cardinals
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Granderson (3) catches a fly ball in the fourth inning (Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)
Granderson (3) catches a fly ball in the fourth inning (Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)

Curtis Granderson will likely begin next season in center field, Mets manager Terry Collins told reporters earlier this week at the MLB Winter Meetings.

As a result, Collins said Michael Conforto will likely spend most of his time in right field, while occasionally filling in for Granderson in center, where Juan Lagares will also get time.

In late November, general manager Sandy Alderson told WOR 710 AM radio that he wants Conforto to be an every-day player in 2017, including possibly getting time as a back-up first baseman.

Tags: Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Matthew Cerrone
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Quiet Winter Meetings for Mets 00:04:19
Steve Gelbs, Andy Martino and Anthony DiComo wrap up all the latest news and action for the Mets as the Winter Meetings come to an end.

SNY's final Winter Meetings Podcast

In their last podcast of the week, hosts Matthew Cerrone and Rob Brender answered several fan voicemails, talking about trading an outfielder, acquiring a new center fielder, why and how to improve the bullpen, and what is likely to happen before Spring Training...

To listen using a pop-out player, click here, or simply use the audio player below...

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Alderson on Mets moving forward 00:03:03
Sandy Alderson chats with Steve Gelbs from the last day of the Winter Meetings and where the team stands on a number of areas.

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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The Mets did not add or lose any players during the Major-League phase of this Thursday's annual Rule 5 Draft, which is the final event each year the 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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