There are multiple opportunities still available to help improve the Mets, despite the number of deals that have gone in down in the last few days...
In the wake of Jay Bruce signing with the Mets, Andrew McCutchen was traded to the Giants, the Twins signed Addison Reed, and the Nationals signed Howie Kendrick.
Meanwhile, Mike Moustakas, Todd Frazier, Neil Walker, Eduardo Nunez, Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, J.D. Martinez and countless mid-level relief pitchers remain available on the free-agent market. Also, Josh Harrison is still on the Pirates, and Starlin Castro is still on the Marlins, both of whom are reportedly available in trade.
Team insiders believe Sandy Alderson has roughly $10 million left to spend on acquisitions this winter. It's not much, though he can raise an additional $6.5 million by trading Juan Lagares.
In addition to needing a third baseman or second baseman, I've heard Alderson would also like to add more stability to his outfield and dish out a few minor-league deals for pitching depth.
In the end, like they did in 2015 and 2016, "It looks like their plan is to pitch great, score just enough to stay in contention, trade for a bat at the deadline and hope to get hot in September," a rival assistant GM told me about the Mets toward the end of last week.
That said, what can Alderson do to help ensure that his lineup is capable of scoring 'just enough runs,' and 'stay in contention,' given his limited budget and available options?
The Bruce signing signaled to me that 1) the Mets may not be fully confident in Lagares, and/or 2) they are more concerned about the health of Conforto and Cespedes than has been reported.
Conforto has told reporters he's doing well in his rehab from shoulder surgery and he hopes to be in the Opening Day lineup. However, by his own admission, it'll be important keep his shoulder rested and strong, especially early in the season.
As a result, I've heard Mets insiders speculate that Conforto may need consistent, strategic time off during the first month or two of the season. I've also heard other insiders say this is false and can't possibly be known until the team gets to Spring Training and can fully test the shoulder's strength.
In the event the shoulder is weak, Mickey Callaway will need to be very mindful of Conforto's playing time and either frequently pull him late in games and/or be sure he gets multiple days off each week. The shoulder could also mean Conforto does not start playing center field until late spring.
Similarly, there has been zero news this winter about Cespedes, who told reporters last September that he intended to do less weight training and more work to improve his endurance and flexibility. He may intend to come to Spring Training in better overall shape, but there's no telling how exactly that will play out for him or the team.
As a result, the Mets can't ignore that he has missed 40 percent of the last two seasons due to leg injuries. It's worth noting that a lot of that missed time was spent on the bench and not on the disabled list as the team waited and hoped he would improve but never did...
By the way, this is why hiring Jim Cavallini as the team's new Director of High Performance is so important. As I wrote last week, Cavallini will organize the entire medical department, including short-term and long-term training programs, nutrition, rehabilitation, kinesiology, mental toughness, and "sports science services." He will not travel with the team, but instead remain at Citi Field examining the above information about the overall health of the roster. Therefore, unlike in previous seasons when they left it up to eyeballs, trust and fate, the Mets now have someone home looking at medicals, trends, matchups, playing time, stats, etc., to help determine when guys like Conforto and Cespedes should play.
What would I do as GM?
If my Director of High Performance had zero concerns about Conforto and Cespedes, I'd trade Lagares to the Pirates for Harrison, who will add $4 million in salary for a guy that can play third or second base.
According to SiriusXM's Jim Bowden, the Brewers will deal Travis Shaw if they sign Moustakas. Bowden believes the Mets would be interested in Shaw, which makes sense. However, he is coming off a 3.6 WAR season, making the league minimum and under team control through 2021, so I can't for the life of me figure out how they and the Mets will find a match in trade.
Instead, after trading for Harrison, I'd use my remaining time and money to try and swap Travis d'Arnaud and his $3.5 million salary for free-agent C Jonathan Lucroy.
I actually think d'Arnaud is capable of a better offensive season than Lucroy at this point in their careers. However, I need a more stable, experienced presence behind the plate, especially knowing Callaway will be asking the pitching staff to throw more breaking balls. I love the wisdom that Lucroy would bring to this specific staff, which will be getting an earful from Callaway and new pitching coach Dave Eiland. I think it's going to be super important that the pitchers have a trusting presence by their side between innings and behind the plate during the game. D'Arnaud may be capable of this, but I just can't trust that he'll remain healthy enough to be out there more games than he's not.
In the event no team will take d'Arnaud and/or Lucroy is not interested in taking a two-year, $22 million deal to join the Mets, then I'd use $5-7 million to sign another reliable reliever, such as Bud Norris, Tony Watson or Matt Albers.
That said, if there is legit concern about Conforto and Cespedes, obviously the Mets have to keep Lagares, which I think makes it less possible to acquire Harrison. In that case, I sign Neil Walker or Eduardo Nunez to play second so Asdrubal Cabrera can play third base. Walker will likely cost the remaining budget. Nunez will cost less than Walker, which could mean affording another reliever, such as giving $3-4 million to David Hernandez or Jorge De La Rosa.
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...