Rumors aside, the Mets have just one main concern in advance of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Dismissing a right-handed bat or starting pitcher as priorities, general manager Sandy Alderson said Tuesday that his focus is to acquire help for the club’s 30th-ranked bullpen. Outside of that, Alderson is hesitant to mortgage any fraction of the organization’s future in exchange for a short-term fix.
“That’s the number one priority,” Alderson said of the bullpen. “We’ve looked at other things. Other things could develop. But we’re focused on a long-term plan with the recognition that 2012 is very important, and we want to be as competitive as we can possibly be. Hopefully we don’t have to compromise the vision.”
Rumors have swirled throughout July that the Mets might be interested in a power right-handed bat or a catcher, possibly in the form of the same person. Then, when right-hander Dillon Gee underwent potentially season-ending surgery last week, the Mets became potential buyers for a starting pitcher.
But starters are expensive in terms of the prospects that other teams expect back, and the Mets already added a right-handed bat Tuesday when they activated Jason Bay from the disabled list. So rather than focus on either of their areas, they will use their lower-tier prospects and available cash to try to score a solid reliever.
At the least, they are committed to that goal. The Mets have assigned all of their Major League scouts to cover big league clubs this week, rather than check out prospects in the Minors.
“So if that’s any evidence of our point of view, our state of mind, we are buyers,” Alderson said. “Right now, we’re buyers.”
Though bullpen help remains their top priority, the Mets have been talking to the Rockies about acquiring catcher Ramon Hernandez, according to multiple reports. Hernandez would solve two issues for the Mets, allowing them to upgrade their offense at catcher while simultaneously providing them with the right-handed bat that they crave. But Colorado’s asking price remains too high, according to the reports.
One of the relievers on the Mets’ Trade Deadline wish list, according to a report Tuesday in the New York Post, is former closer Francisco Rodriguez.
From a purely baseball perspective, that makes plenty of sense. Because of Rodriguez’s 4.00 ERA and $8-million salary as Milwaukee’s setup man, the Brewers cannot rightfully ask for a significant haul of prospects in return. But Rodriguez does have a long track record of excellence in late-game situations and holds a 2.66 ERA in 25 outings since May 4, striking out nearly a batter per inning and walking one-third as many.
Rodriguez, for what it’s worth, also has experience pitching in New York. He was mellower last season after taking anger management classes following his 2010 arrest at Citi Field for assault, so that New York experience could make him more valuable than other late-inning options.
Other relievers available include Brett Myers of the Astros, Huston Street of the Padres and Grant Balfour of the A’s.
Though the Mets are still feeling out their own roster before deciding what to do at the Trade Deadline, it’s clear that the top priority here is bullpen help. Despite the offseason acquisitions of Frank Francisco (who is injured), Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez, the bullpen still ranks last in baseball by a significant margin.
Buster Olney indicated Thursday on Twitter that the Mets could be a match for A’s reliever Grant Balfour, which would make sense. The Mets are not going to pay enormous sums of money or prospects to acquire a reliever, but someone such as Balfour could potentially provide a decent return without the Mets having to give up any of their top prospects or take on significant salary.
But with many teams still in legitimate playoff contention and the market for relievers consequently developing slowly, the Mets are not likely to swing a trade until after the All-Star break.
NEW YORK — The loudest ovations were for R.A. Dickey and David Wright. Hall of Fame player and broadcaster Ralph Kiner received a standing ovation as he read the starting lineup.
“There’s an old expression,” Kiner said. “I’m very happy to be here. But at my age, I’m happy to be anywhere.”
After that, along with a ceremony to honor late Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter, Opening Day began for the Mets. Representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard sang the national anthem at Citi Field, marking the first time all-female singers from each branch of the military have sung together at a major U.S. sporting event.
“When you spend your whole life doing this, Opening Day means it’s the start of the things you like to do best, and that’s play the games,” manager Terry Collins said. “Summer’s on the way. Winter’s over.”
Entering his second season at the helm, Collins was not the only member of the Mets anxious to begin. General manager Sandy Alderson, who had not tweeted from his @MetsGM account since February, relayed a message roughly a half hour before first pitch.
“Opening Day with beautiful weather and Johan Santana on the mound,” Alderson wrote. “What a great way to start the season. Let’s go Mets!”
In a Twitter post early Friday morning, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Mets and Mariners have joined the Marlins, Reds, Red Sox and Rangers as clubs checking up on Oakland’s Gio Gonzalez.
From a New York perspective, that one is tough to figure. This is the first time all winter the Mets have been rumored to be looking into acquiring an established Major League player, as opposed to trading one away. As recently as last week, the Mets had discussed dealing their own young left-handed starter, Jon Niese, with a list of teams including the Angels and Yankees.
General manager Sandy Alderson has been adamant in saying that he is looking at trades to improve the Mets both for the future and for 2012. Gonzalez would certainly represent more of the latter than the former; though just 26 years old, he is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, meaning his salary is poised to skyrocket.
What’s more, Alderson stated publicly last week that the top-tier prospects in New York’s farm system — Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey et al — are the only untouchables in the organization outside of David Wright. Given that such prospects are presumably what Oakland would be seeking in a deal for Gonzalez, it is unclear what the Mets could offer in a swap.
The Mets and Dodgers discussed a trade of infielder Daniel Murphy at the Winter Meetings, a source told MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick, and may revisit those talks later this offseason.
Murphy’s name has come up sporadically in trade rumors this offseason, and for good reason: he ranked fifth in the National League batting race at the time of his season-ending knee injury in August. But Murphy does not have a clear defensive home and will hit arbitration after next season, making him a more expensive proposition than he currently is.
The Mets have been active in trade talks in recent days, also discussing potential deals for Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell, according to sources. General manager Sandy Alderson has indicated that the only players he would not consider trading this offseason are David Wright and the organization’s top handful of Minor League prospects.
The Mets spent time Wednesday fielding inquiries on hard-throwing right-hander Bobby Parnell, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions. Parnell, who has been squeezed out of New York’s late-inning bullpen mix due to the recent acquisitions of Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez, struggled down the stretch last season, blowing four of his final seven save opportunities. But the Mets believe his triple-digit fastball may attract suitors.
No Major League player is currently untouchable for the Mets, who also fielded inquiries Wednesday on left-handed starter Jon Niese.
The Mets met with representatives for free-agent outfielder Endy Chavez on Tuesday, in a continued effort to fill out their bench. An industry source said that the Mariners, Rangers and Orioles all remain potential landing spots for Chavez, as well. No deal appears imminent with any of those teams.
Chavez has spent the last six years bouncing from New York to Seattle and Texas — though he is best-known as a Met, transforming into a fan favorite after his game-saving catch in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series at Shea Stadium. Signing him could give the Mets a modest public relations boost.
The Mets are one of five teams on free-agent pitcher Mark Buehrle’s list of finalists, according to an industry source. The Rangers and Marlins are also on the list.
After losing shortstop Jose Reyes to the Marlins, the Mets have $20-25 million to spend on player acquisitions, freeing them up to pursue higher-caliber pitching than they once thought possible.