By Rich Coutinho
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This is an important off-season for Sandy Alderson who gets high marks for agreeing with David Wright on a contract extension but as we head to The Winter Meetings he still has much work to do. Here is the laundry list of questions he must face as we get into the teeth of the off-season.
1. To Sign RA or Not To Sign RA— The RA Dickey issue is a complex one as the Cy Young Award winner is an important part of a rotation that I believe can be as good as any in the NL East. But his market value is pretty high with teams such as the Jays, Royals, and Angels looking to add starting pitchers with those teams holding blue chip prospects that could fill out the Met roster. This is a player Met fans have a close affinity with and that must be put into the equation as well. My gut tells me the Mets will sign Dickey because they will find teams may be less interested in a 38-year-old pitcher even if he is a knuckleballer and the sense the Mets are dangling him, may force the Dickey camp to blink first in their contract negotiations.
2. Do The Mets Trade Niese? –Provided the Mets do not deal Dickey, Jonathon Niese is an attractive left-handed pitcher who has a very salary-friendly contract and as such will command some interest in Nashville. But here’s the rub–Sandy Alderson will not trade him unless he is bowled over. What does that exactly mean? He would have to address 2 needs with one deal. For example, he’d need to get a catcher and an outfielder or an outfielder and a relief pitcher. One of those players would need to be a top-level prospect or a major league impact player. If only one need is addressed, the deal won’t get done.
3. What Do The Mets Do At The Catcher Position?—Catching is at such a premium in this market with the Yankees now entering the mix as a team that may need one. That leaves the Mets with very little chance of securing a full-time catcher and now they must set their sights on a right-handed hitter to platoon with Josh Thole. I have been touting Jesus Flores as that guy on Twitter but I think there are other candidates such as Kelly Shoppach who could fill that role although the Mets were not blown away by Shoppach’s production late last year after their deal with the Red Sox.
4. Outfield, Outfield, Outfield–Unless the Mets deal Dickey or Niese, their choices in the outfield remain on the free-agent market and those choices are slim considering both their budget and the lack of quality sluggers. Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourne, and Nick Swisher seem to be out of their price range but once those pins fall it could diminish the prices for guys like Shane Victorino, Angel Pagan, Cody Ross, and Ryan Ludwick. I believe one of those four will be a Met next year with the possibility still existing for a return engagement for Scott Hairston should the market re-define itself. The Mets also need to figure out what they have in Lucas Duda and if he has any trade value.
5. How Do The Mets Re-Shape Their Bullpen? –Sandy Alderson got a lot of heat for the Pagan trade but I had more issue with the 2 year deal he gave Frank Francisco because all the other moves were 1-year gambles but that second year for Francisco seems like an albatross now. I do think the Mets will get good production from incumbents Bobby Parnell, Josh Edgin, and Robert Carson. I would like to see them add a couple of hard throwers and I would entertain a return of Jon Rauch if the price was right. But here’s the thing about bullpens–so much of it is hit and miss. Remember this about pitchers–if a guy is not a starter or a closer, it likely means he failed at one of those jobs because of a flaw in his game. That makes constructing a bullpen a dicey game and makes it even more important to get starters to go longer in games. But that’s another debate for another day.
So, there you have it–Sandy Alderson’s first post-Madoff off-season with lots of questions even after signing the best third basemen in the sport of baseball.
What moves would make if you are the Mets GM? Let us know below.