By Ernie Palladino
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Of all the stuff that is likely to occur at the Winter Meetings, beginning Sunday in San Diego, the Mets and Yanks had better hope a lot of it happens to them.
Both teams have much work to do to avoid a repeat of the embarrassments of 2014.
Neither team is close to playoff quality right now. And it will take a busy week and multiple deals, whether it’s trades or locking down free agents, to get either of them to that point.
To date, only the Mets have been brazen enough to even refer to the postseason, probably for fear of drawing down the laughter of an entire city upon them. But there was Matt Harvey this week, talking about and agreeing with Sandy Alderson’s plans to put him on a “soft” innings count to get him all the way through his first post-Tommy John surgery regular season and the playoffs.
If the plan that Alderson recently laid out for the media works, Harvey will gain enough rest from some rotation juggling before off days and the occasional skipped start to pitch straight through October. Of course, the conversation was couched in the narrow framework of the right-hander’s return.
To expand that to the rest of the team, Alderson must first realize that his free-agent signing of Michael Cuddyer, while advantageous to a weak lineup, is not really going to take the Mets anywhere without some subsequent moves. And those moves, like finding an upgrade for Ruben Tejada at shortstop, might by necessity create the need for other moves.
Unless Alderson is willing to take an unwise chance on San Diego’s troubled free-agent shortstop Everth Cabrera — he of the marijuana and resisting-arrest busts and falling performance — he’s going to have to give up some of that much talked about pitching depth, or else be happy with Tejada and Wilmer Flores at short.
Another bullpen arm wouldn’t hurt, either. Perhaps Alderson could approach the Royals, who would be willing to trade a Wade Davis or Greg Holland for rotational help. Alderson would probably have to give up a Dillon Gee, Jon Niese or Noah Syndergaard, but it might be worth it to strengthen the middle relievers.
The Yanks? Even if they lock up left-handed reliever Andrew Miller before Sunday, they’ll still want to devote a boatload of dough to re-signing closer David Robertson. Dellin Betances likely would step into the closer’s role if Robertson leaves, with Miller serving as his setup man. There is also the possibility that Miller will sign with the Dodgers, and Robertson will find the fourth year he’s looking for, and the Yanks will have to acquire a true setup man.
They wouldn’t be done with the reliever. They, too, need a shortstop. Unlike the Mets, their hole is gaping. The Yanks don’t have someone like a Flores to settle on in the absence of a quality pickup. Brian Cashman needs to find someone quickly to fill Derek Jeter’s shoes. And he might also want to look around for a starting pitcher, as it’s no sure thing that he’s going to re-sign Brandon McCarthy.
Cashman also has to cover himself in case third baseman Chase Headley doesn’t re-sign. Can’t rely on aging and controversy-plagued Alex Rodriguez to hold the fort there.
That being the case, expect to see Cashman working the room as hard as a Vegas lounge singer. And Alderson won’t be enjoying the surfing waves, either.
Both teams have much to do. If they have a successful Winter Meetings, or at least lay the groundwork for some post-meetings deals, then perhaps they can talk about the postseason in a serious manner.
But not until then.
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