Major League Baseball’s hot stove season will reach its zenith next week with the commencement of the winter meetings in San Diego. Historically, the winter meetings are a time of heightened baseball operations activity and media coverage, and this year figures to be no different. While some notable free agent signings and trades have already been made this offseason, and while others will occur as winter gives way to spring training, next week’s meetings offer front office personnel a unique opportunity to get things done: to sign free agents, to select players in the Rule 5 Draft, and to execute or lay the groundwork for trades which, they hope, will improve their team’s fortunes. For teams like the Mets, which appear to be reasonably well-poised for success, the winter meetings can mark a crucial point in the offseason.
A popular question to ask around the winter meetings is, "is this team buying or selling?" To an extent, the question establishes a false dichotomy. For one thing, a trade is, by nature, an exchange wherein each trade partner necessarily both "buys" (receives) and "sells" (sends away) alike. Another point of consideration is the fact that every team’s goal is to improve when they make a trade; that is, teams generally do not "sell" their players without some overarching vision in play. Having said that, each team’s strategy and execution are different in view of the strength of their roster, their farm system, the division in which they play, and their finances, among other factors.
The Mets, for their part, are in a relatively strong position heading into the winter meetings. They already addressed their lack of offense from left field, as well as—presumably—the problem of Lucas Duda’s platoon split versus left-handed pitching, by signing Michael Cuddyer to a two-year contract. In addition, the Mets have remarkable (and well-documented) starting pitching depth, which, among other things, gives Sandy Alderson an enviable upper hand (despite the odd assertion to the contrary) as he authors and considers myriad trade proposals.
The Mets have entrenched players at most positions, and most of them are good, likely due for a bounce-back season, or have remaining upside potential. The one position where the Mets arguably need to improve over in-house options is at shortstop, although there does not appear to be a clear upgrade available on the trade market, according to Alderson himself. WIlmer Flores is still very much a question mark as a Major League Baseball player; but the combination of his youth, strong minor league track record at the plate, and seemingly decent defensive play at shortstop last season for the Mets—albeit in somewhat limited playing time—could lead the Mets to simply give him the job, and not without some justification.
So are the Mets buyers or sellers? The answer is probably "both." As has been reported, Alderson is motivated to "sell" at least one of the veteran trio of Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese, or Dillon Gee—partially for salary relief, and partially because, with the return of Matt Harvey, the Mets simply have too many starting pitchers for too few rotation spots. As for "buying," the Mets could go that route if they were to find a clear upgrade over Wilmer Flores at shortstop.
Of course, there is always the chance that an altogether unanticipated deal materializes. The Mets are trying to put together a playoff-caliber team next year, so they are probably going to consider any and all potential upgrades, which is nothing if not exciting for us Mets fans. So, who knows what—if any—unexpected and unforeseen moves might be made next week? We'll find out. Either way, the Mets are in a good position heading into the winter meetings, and appear to be poised for a run at success in 2015 and beyond.