Mets pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Port St. Lucie for Spring Training in just four weeks. Now there’s something to smile about. However, with a quieter than usual hot stove season, many teams, including the Mets, find themselves with incomplete rosters and some remaining holes to fill and issues to sort out before the equipment trucks head south. Here is Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson’s remaining to do list.
Sort out the Jay Bruce thing
This discussion has grown tiresome. Now that Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo are off the board, surely a team in need of a power bat will come calling, right? Yes, there are other sluggers available, but Bruce may be a better alternative than two years of strikeout machine Chris Carter or a year of the less than super Brandon Moss, Pedro Alvarez, Adam Lind, or *gasp* Ryan Howard. By now, every general manager in Major League Baseball, and probably in the other major sports as well, know that Bruce is available in trade. Alderson knows the situation, but despite his posturing, we can’t go to spring training with this third wheel in tow. It would create too much of a disruption. Whoever is willing to take on his salary can have him. Then our outfield logjam and payroll are clear.
Fill out the bullpen
The Mets are still clearly in need of a few more arms in the bullpen. We’ve got two great arms at the back end, some solid depth behind the rotation, a few guys who could compete for a last spot, and Hansel Robles. We need two more guys like him to bridge from early exit starter to Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia. At least one of them should be a lefty. There are still a lot of names that fit the bill available in free agency, and the list includes a number of former Mets. Lefties Jerry Blevins, Boone Logan, J.P. Howell and Travis Wood are all available, as are righties Sergio Romo, Greg Holland, Joe Smith, Joe Blanton, Fernando Salas and Jim Henderson. There are still more quality relievers reportedly available via trade like Sean Doolittle.
Gauge the Captain’s health
Prior to spring training, Alderson and Terry Collins should really try to have a good idea of where all the players are at who are returning from significant injuries. The list is long and it includes at least seven players critical to this team’s success in 2017 – Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, David Wright, and every starting pitcher not named Noah Syndergaard. By all accounts Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Matt Harvey are okay and will be ready to rock. Walker and Duda are coming off back injuries, which can be so tricky. Duda appeared to be okay when he came back at the very end of the season. Walker may not be a slam dunk and Wright is far from it.
The front office really needs to make a proper assessment of Wright and try to estimate what they can expect from him this season. There are no guarantees here, but it helps to be prepared. It’s been three years since he’s played a full season of baseball, as he’s battled spinal stenosis and then a significant neck injury. If we can realistically anticipate even a half season of play out of our captain, then we can get by with a combination of Jose Reyes, Wilmer Flores and TJ Rivera filling in at third base. Those three players are all bound to see significant playing time, especially with Duda’s splits at first and Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera needing days off as well. By midseason, the front office can reassess, but for now, our infield depth should be sufficient to begin the season.
Settle up with Wilmer Flores
The aggressive approach the Mets front office took to arbitration this year was successful. Nine out of 10 eligible players settled, and most for less than what was estimated. The lone hold out is fan favorite and super sub Wilmer Flores who reportedly asked for $2.2 million but was offered $1.8 million and is now expected to take his case to an arbitration hearing, where the two sides will hopefully meet halfway and move on with their storied relationship.
Beyond those moves, all that’s left to do is count the days until the bats, bases, and gloves are loaded onto the moving truck headed for Port St. Lucie. Warmer days are coming.