So the Winter Meetings have come and gone, and though the Mets weren’t idle, their moves more lukewarm hot plate than hot stove.
The main offseason target, according to many report, was Ben Zobrist. When he chose the Cubs, they quickly dealt Jon Niese to Pittsburgh for Neil Walker. Walker, who is in his contract year, will take the departed Daniel Murphy’s place at second.
Oddly, the next move was the signing of free agent Asdrubal Cabrera to a two-year $16 million contract. As Mets360.com’s Larry Smith demonstrates Cabrera, while a useful player, is virtually the same player as Wilmer Flores, who now becomes a bench player.
Now, in a world where payroll isn’t a factor, this move may very well be what Mets need. It improves the bench, and adds versatility to the roster, as our friend Matt Cerrone from Metsblog.com points out:
The #Mets have 3 guys on their 25-man roster that can play SS, 4 that play 2B, 5 that play 3B & 2 that play 1B.
— Matthew Cerrone (@matthewcerrone) December 11, 2015
But payroll IS a factor, the offense still needs to replace the impact bat of Yoenis Cespedes (or simply find a way to resign the guy who helped power them to a pennant), and the bullpen needs to add depth to build the bridge to closer Jeurys Familia.
Now the team’s budget is eight million in the hole for 2016, spent on a player that the New York Times’ Michael Powell calls “a former All-Star who ranks among the poorest defensive shortstops in baseball.”
The Mets have reached an inflection point. They have a phalanx of terrific young starting pitchers who can toss nasty curves and dial fastballs at close to 100 miles per hour. The actuarial odds are that one of them might tear an elbow tendon, and the economic odds are that one or more might leave for free agency.
As the Mets learned in the soporific days of June and July, baseball teams cannot live on pitching alone. Someone has to hit.
I was asked on Twitter on Dec. 10, as teams left the Winter Meetings several questions, which boils down to this: What’s my problem?
My problem, my fellow Mets fans, is that in all of the years I have watched this team play, and all the years I have covered them, I have never felt the need to endorse every move they make because I am a fan of the team. Unlike the beat writers, whose snark towards fans, shrugged shoulders when team fails to address real need and overall endorsement of the people they cover, is the status quo, I offer something different. An unfiltered, unbiased opinion.
Several people have unfollowed me on Twitter because they say I am negative, etc. Well, like I tell my kids, be who you are. So, I am going to be who I am. 2016 will mark my 20th year in journalism, and I enjoy the give and take. Likewise, when I sense the ownership is once again going to sit on its hands and try to tread water after a pennant-winning season, as it did in 2001, I will say so, in print and otherwise.
My former Associated Press colleague, the very talented Anthony Guido told me , “It’s Dec 10. Not April 10 or July 10.” He’s right, of course. But I like to be proactive.
I can assure you, if this winter snooze continues, this is just a warm up. Hope you like the new column, and see you on social media.
Mark Healey is the Managing Editor of The Wave newspaper, and his column “The Stoop” runs every Friday.