Mets major players at winter meetings? Don't be nuts

Sandy Alderson had jokes on opening day of the winter meetings. He also had the same somber message Mets fans have been hearing for years.

As Alderson laid out his priorities this week in Florida, he made it clear, to borrow the immortal line from agent Scott Boras, the club will again shop in the fruits and nuts section.

The first clue was Alderson’s attempt at levity in explaining why the front office didn’t even try to “feign any interest” in soon-to-be Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton.

“With Brandon Nimmo in right field, we just didn’t feel we had a need there,” Alderson said, per the New York Post.

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Really funny. Nimmo might be the Mets’ fifth outfielder by spring training if Alderson can lure an economicial/cheap vet to Flushing.

Not that Stanton would have entertained a move there, anyway, even though he has feasted at Citi Field in his career (21 home runs, .962 OPS in 52 games). He wanted to play for a contender for once. 

Alderson insists the Mets “want to be as good as we can possibly be,” and considering the team’s opening day payroll last season was $154 million (in the top half of the majors), that sounds like an earnest commitment. But then you remember the late-summer sell-off that brought back just a bunch of minor league relievers (and helped balance the budget), and you see the limits that are placed on that commitment.

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Maybe one or two of those pitchers will help out this year. If they stick, they’ll probably be joined by the red-tag specials Alderson hopes to pluck in January or February.

“We think there are some values out there to the extent the market gets overheated. I don’t think we will jump into the inferno, but we want to improve our bullpen,” he said, per the Post.

Translation: Get excited for Bryan Shaw, or maybe reunions with Addison Reed and Joe Smith, instead of Wade Davis and Greg Holland.

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Another way Alderson might try to fix the ‘pen: trade Matt Harvey for a reliever. The New York Daily News reported Alderson has discussed such a move with two teams.

Before you get psyched about the possibility of Zach Britton or Kelvin Herrera or even Brad Hand being the return, remember that Harvey has been broken for two years and can become a free agent after next season. He could be sitting on a monster walk year, but it’s more likely he still won’t adjust to having diminished velocity. Other teams know that and will deal accordingly.

As for the Mets’ other major problem areas — Alderson is focusing on second base, first base and outfield depth — get ready for an Adam Lind-Jose Reyes right side of the infield, with cameos by Wilmer Flores against lefties. Or, get ready for Lind patrolling the corner outfield a few days a week.

Eric Hosmer or Carlos Santana to replace Dom Smith at first? Too many zeroes. Jason Kipnis or Ian Kinsler or Starlin Castro at second? Those guys would require a trade, and Alderson admits he doesn’t have many high-end prospects to deal. Lorenzo Cain in center? His market won’t come down enough. Trade for Andrew McCutchen? That’ll be at least $15 million, please. Re-sign Jay Bruce? How much will you come down from your initial demand, Jay?

The Mets entered the winter meetings with $69.25 million committed to five players, per Baseball Prospectus. One of them is David Wright, who may never play again. They also have eight arbitration-eligible players, led by the core of the rotation (Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom), Harvey, closer Jeurys Familia and catcher Travis d’Arnaud. It’s an expensive group. 

Alderson told reporters in September the payroll would shrink in 2018. In August, he indicated the 2017 opening day figure was a stretch for ownership. Seems odd a franchise with its own TV network and decent ticket sales (2.46 million last season, 14th in the majors), that’s past the worst of the Bernie Madoff debacle, would have to pinch pennies, but here we are.

Then again, the message was clear long ago: The Mets have deep pockets, short arms and a strange attraction to trail mix. The annual restocking is about to commence.

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