The Mets made an early offseason splash with the signing of Michael Cuddyer. This addressed a major team need for a corner outfielder. The team is still far from ready to compete, with several holes in the roster still apparent. Beginning Sunday, the winter meetings represent a good chance for the front office to either fill these needs or better assess the market for the rest of the offseason.
More than any other position, shortstop is the spot that is most in need of an upgrade. The Mets' internal options simply don't inspire much confidence. If Opening Day were tomorrow, the starting shortstop would likely be Wilmer Flores. He offers a measure of upside offensively, but what his bat ultimately becomes is still a matter of speculation. This past season he hit .251/.286/.378 totaling a wRC+ of 88. In addition to his less-than-stellar offense, it is generally agreed that Flores is a well-below-average defensive shortstop. This is evidenced by the fact that for much of his minor league career he was moved off of shortstop and spent time at the other infield positions. In short, Wilmer Flores would be a far from ideal option as the opening day shortstop.
The other internal option for shortstop, Ruben Tejada, is even less exciting than Flores. Tejada was handed the position as the heir to Jose Reyes in 2012 and turned in a solid first season as the starter, but his production nosedived in 2013 and only marginally improved in 2014. This past season he batted .237/.342/.310 with a wRC+ of 89. The on-base percentage can partially be attributed to a large number of intentional—plus an untold number of nearly intentional walks—due to batting in front of the pitcher. Tejada does provide better defense than Flores and because of that would likely be a reasonable choice as a backup middle infielder.
Despite the obvious need, it isn't clear in what direction the Mets will go to fill it. They would like to trade one of Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese, or Dillon Gee, but a top-tier shortstop would cost far more than that. It is likely they will wait out the market before making a commitment. Adam Rubin of ESPN New York believes they will prepare to use Flores and see if another option emerges in January.
The Mets are also in the market for a left-handed relief pitcher. Currently they only have one: Josh Edgin. They would undoubtedly benefit from carrying a second lefty due to Terry Collins's proclivity to overuse lefties out of the bullpen. Over the past few seasons, Tim Byrdak and Scott Rice have both seen considerable usage only to later succumb to arm injuries.
Several of the top left-handed relief options in free agency have already signed. Zach Duke, who had a good year with the Brewers, signed with the White Sox for three years and $15 million. Meanwhile, Andrew Miller signed with the Yankees for four years and $36 million. Consequently, the front office will have to look at less accomplished players if they wish to fill the void via free agency.
Internally, options include Dario Alvarez, who skyrocketed from Low-A Savannah all the way to the major leagues in 2014. He only made four appearances with the Mets, but he remains a possibility as he is already on the 40-man roster. There is also Jack Leathersich, who has posted high strikeout totals at every level of the minor leagues and, unfortunately, has coupled that with high walk totals. He has never had a strikeout percentage below 30, but he hasn't walked fewer than 10% of batters since his time in Savannah. He will look to make his big league debut sometime in 2015.
A final area of need is the fifth outfielder spot. This hole opened up when the Mets non-tendering of Eric Young Jr. They could go with Matt den Dekker, but with Kirk Nieuwenhuis expected to make the team another left-handed outfielder on the bench would seem redundant. Instead, the Mets could look to bring in someone cheap as they have done the past few years with players such as Collin Cowgill, Andrew Brown, and Marlon Byrd.
While many reasonably think the Mets will be quiet during the winter meetings in San Diego, these three positions should be addressed before too long if Alderson and company expect to be playoff competitors in 2015.