Inbox: Who will be Opening Day shortstop?
Mets beat reporter Anthony DiComo responds to fans' questions
The offseason is nearly two months old, and while the Mets have certainly been more active than last year, when they waited until late January to ink their first Major League signing, they have yet to make the splashy types of moves that many fans expected. Meanwhile, free agents are flying off the board across baseball.
With that as a backdrop, it is important to remember that the offseason is still young. The Winter Meetings are two weeks away, and most of the game's top free agents have yet to find new teams. Though the Mets won't be shopping in the most expensive aisles this winter, they do still have plenty of opportunities in front of them -- even if that pool is beginning to shrink.
Why didn't the Mets pay for Jhonny Peralta? They were in on him and let him slip away, and now they don't have many options.
-- Henry P., West Milford, N.J.
Quite simply, the Mets -- like a lot of people in baseball -- found Peralta's demands too rich. Four years and $52 million is a lot to pay for a 31-year-old shortstop coming off a performance-enhancing drug suspension, and the Mets were well within their bounds to let him sign in St. Louis without much of a fight.
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That said, if the Mets are serious about upgrading at shortstop, they now find themselves in a bit of a pickle. If they pursue Stephen Drew, the only other top shortstop available on the open market, agent Scott Boras will surely argue that Drew deserves even more money than Peralta just received from the Cardinals. So if the Mets found Peralta's demands steep, they may consider Drew's prohibitive.
Beyond Drew, there's enough of a drop-off to question whether any acquisition would really be an upgrade over incumbent Ruben Tejada. Is Rafael Furcal, at age 36 and more than a full year removed from his last big league plate appearance, really a better option than the 24-year-old Tejada? Surely no one else on the free agent list is.
A trade, then -- names such as Asdrubal Cabrera, J.J. Hardy and Jed Lowrie have been popping up in the news every week. But Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has been hesitant to dip into the pitching depth in his farm system, and even Cards GM John Mozeliak, who spent much of November looking into the shortstop trade market, said Monday that the asking prices on that front floored him.
"We certainly explored the trade market at many levels trying to see what we could do there," said Mozeliak, who has proven far less risk-averse than Alderson in recent years, "but the acquisition costs seemed very preventative for us to move forward with that."
The takeaway is that, while the Mets once considered finding a new shortstop a priority, they may no longer have a say in the matter. Unless Alderson makes an unforeseen splash to acquire Drew, or negotiates a shrewd deal for someone on the trade market, it seems far more likely than it did last week that Tejada will be the Mets' Opening Day starter up the middle.
How good was Eric Young Jr. at second base for Colorado? Left field is a power position. Could Young be shifted to second base, leaving the Mets able to trade Daniel Murphy and one of their first basemen and a prospect for an outfielder?
-- Sy Y., New York, N.Y.
It's certainly possible. Though Young hasn't played much second base in the Majors, it is his natural position and he has been adequate in that small sample. It stands to reason that a player as athletic as Young would not have much trouble transitioning back to the infield.
In a perfect world, the Mets would keep Murphy, sign a starting corner outfielder and use Young off the bench, where his speed and versatility could make him one of the best utilitymen in the league. But the Mets have many holes and will be hard-pressed to fill them all without dipping into the trade market, meaning Murphy is at risk of being elsewhere next season.
There is so much emphasis on how good Lucas Duda is at the plate and how we need to get him in the lineup. The thing is, he is a frontrunner for the Iron Glove award. Why don't we aggressively shop him in the American League to a team that needs a DH? (Yankees, Astros?)
-- Logan B., Ithaca, N.Y.
A few things to note here. One, while Duda is one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball, he is not a liability at his natural position of first base. We've seen enough to know that he's roughly league average at the position, which is a huge upgrade from what he was giving them defensively in the outfield.
Two, AL teams in general are not keen on the idea of acquiring full-time DHs, preferring to use that position as a way to give their catchers and older players strategic days off. A major selling point for the Yankees in acquiring Brian McCann, for example, was knowing they could DH him on day games following night games without losing his bat. The presence of a full-time DH would destroy that type of lineup versatility.
Three, regardless of your perception, Duda has simply not hit well enough for most teams to commit at-bats to him at a premium offensive position -- let alone to give up something valuable in a trade. That is why the Mets are far more likely to deal Ike Davis, who intrigues rival executives with his power potential.
What are the chances that the Mets go after A.J. Burnett? I know he'd cost more than somebody like Bronson Arroyo or Bartolo Colon, but would he really be that much higher?
-- Ric C., Palm Harbor, Fla.
Burnett shaped his own market when he indicated that he would rather retire than pitch anywhere but Pittsburgh in 2014. Unless that changes, the Mets have no chance at him regardless of how snug a fit Queens might be.
Do you think there's any chance John Buck would come back to the Mets, or if they'd have interest? I think he's a great locker room guy and Travis d'Arnaud has a bit of an injury history, which would make Buck great insurance.
-- Joe I., Port St. Lucie, Fla.
The Mets would certainly like to acquire a veteran backup catcher, and Buck -- considering his strengths as a game-caller, his knowledge of New York's pitching staff and his familiarity with d'Arnaud -- would be a great fit. But it's not a priority for the Mets, who are more concerned with finding an outfielder and a starting pitcher than a backup catcher. And it's probably not a priority for Buck, who would rather find a starting gig elsewhere than a backup job in New York.
Later in the offseason, once the priorities for both sides change, I could see it happening.
With the emergence of Vic Black and the velocity of his pitches, would he be a likely candidate to become a future closer for the organization? I'm sure Bobby Parnell will be looking to rebound, but is it in the cards?
-- Brian F., Oceanside, N.Y.
The Mets have already said that if Parnell is not fully healed from neck surgery by Opening Day, Black will be the interim closer. That could change if the Mets find a LaTroy Hawkins-type veteran to fill out their bullpen, but it still tells you how they feel about the 25-year-old flamethrower. My guess is he'll be a closer at some point in his career, either in New York or elsewhere.