Following remarks by Sandy Alderson that a trade at this point in the offseason is unlikely, with most mutually-beneficial scenarios for an exchange explored, it seems the only way to improve the team by addition is by signing free agents. Alderson has made clear he is still looking for an innings eater in the rotation to compete with the young guns for that fifth spot and for a veteran presence in the bullpen, preferably a late-inning option. As most fans know, as it has been discussed endlessly on these boards, the Mets could also benefit, at least in the short term, from an upgrade at first base and shortstop.
Many think that Davis and Tejada, young players with a track record of success who are probably just as likely to turn it around as they are to repeat their 2013 performances, deserve another crack at nailing down their positions. While I think that is an acceptable decision, and would still go into the season full of optimism, there are two players who would legitimize the lineup and go a long way to giving the Mets an outside chance at a wild card this year.
The first is Stephen Drew, who while not an elite player, brings above-average defense, and after a career year in 2013, significant offensive upside to the position. The second, Kendrys Morales, has been labeled as DH and unsuited to handle a full-time role at first base in the National League. But for all his time at DH, he has also played plenty of games at first base, and can generally be considered only a minor defensive liability at worst. At 30 years of age, in my opinion, he still has youth and the athleticism that comes with it, to handle the field for a full season. Not much needs to be said about his bat, which has always been a middle-of-the-order presence and consistently productive.
The benefits of having two upgraded positions also come with secondary benefits for the rest of the Mets players individually. Pitchers won’t feel they need to pitch a perfect game for a chance to win as was the case with Harvey and last year’s anemic offense. Similarly, Davis and Tejada will not have the added pressure of needing to perform on the biggest stage in the biggest market and can continue their development; Davis’ success in Las Vegas after his demotion mid-summer is a testament to the fact kinks are better worked out before the curtain goes up at showtime. If Davis does find success again, his value increases as a trade candidate, or he will be better-prepared to handle a promotion if the occasion arises. Which brings me to my next point.
The fact is both Drew and Morales turned down qualifying offers, which immediately made them unmarketable to a majority of teams unwilling to give up a first-round pick for them. However, since the Mets have their 2014 first-round pick protected, and have relinquished their second-round pick for Granderson, these players would only cost a third and fourth-round pick, respectively. They are also likely willing to commit to a short-term deal for a reasonable salary considering the lack of a market if it gets late enough in the game.
Many fans would rather wait for next offseason to get a shortstop in the event, and inevitability as some fans see it, that Tejada continues to regress. Though there is a stronger SS free agent class next year, there will also be more competition with teams like the Yankees presumably in the market as well. And it could also cost a first-round pick if the Mets are good enough this year to avoid a bottom-third record, which could very well happen considering the already-upgraded offense and the promotion and progress of young players like Wheeler, d’Arnaud, Lagares, and Syndergaard, among others.
Finally, the Mets could potentially benefit from Drew and Morales leaving the team after a one or two-year contract. If the Mets made qualifying offers to both and were turned down they would be entitled to a first-round compensation pick for each. Or better yet, if a team got desperate at the trading deadline, which is when teams become desperate, Alderson could use his best talent and find some nice prospects in return.
Ultimately, every move comes with risks, and not making a move at all might be the riskiest. In my opinion, these two players can do what the front office has been wanting all along. To improve the team now without mortgaging away the future.
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CyYout had the misfortune of sleeping through the 1986 Mets World Series victory and has regretted it ever since. He was only four years old, but vowed then to never miss anything about the Mets ever again.
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