The future is “now” – but won´t come in exchange for mortgaging the “future” in a future sense.
This off-season, the Mets will probably add a proven veteran SS – be it most likely Stephen Drew or Jhonny Peralta via free agency, or Yunel Escobar or Alexei Ramirez via trade. Each would represent a significant upgrade from the unproductive Omar Quintanilla / Ruben Tejada combo of 2013. With Wilfredo Tovar, Gavin Cecchini and Amed Rosario in the system, I doubt that the Mets commit to more than a 2-year deal with anyone. In any case, the 2014 shortstop doesn´t figure to earn significantly more than $10 million or cost us any of the Top 10 prospects in our system in a trade.
I also expect the Mets to add two corner outfielders, probably one LH and one RH bat. Shin-Soo Choo appears to be the lone “star” caliber player who seems like a fit, while Carlos Beltran seems like an unlikely, but very solid fit too on a shorter term deal. A “trade” for the somewhat questionable contracts of Andre Ethier or Nick Swisher could be options just like a “lower budget” signing of Coco Crisp or David DeJesus.
In any case, expect an outfielder who bats lefthanded, is solid defensively, and can reasonably be expected to get on base at a .350+ clip. Plus a righthanded corner outfielder with some power. With Cesar Puello being a front-office favorite apparently, I´d expect a short term contract for one or a max of two seasons. Targets could include Nelson Cruz, Marlon Byrd or Corey Hart. None would figure to exceed two years and there´s a chance that even a 1-year deal is enough. I doubt the Mets feel it´s the right time for a really bold move – such as trading for Carlos Gonzalez or Giancarlo Stanton if they become available.
I expect the Mets to target a dependable veteran starter who seems like a good bet to take the ball every 5th day and keep the team in games for 6 to 7 innings. One of the deep pool of “second tier” free agents like Bronson Arroyo seems like an ideal fit – but Scott Feldman or Ricky Nolasco could become targets too. Don´t expect more than a 2-year guaranteed deal to anyone though. In any case, the Mets will probably add at least one veteran insurance policy like Dice-K or Harang to compete with Jenrry Mejia and Rafael Montero for the # 5 spot out of spring training and/or serve as veteran AAA insurance.
I don´t expect a lot of movement in the bullpen, especially if Latroy Hawkins is indeed re-signed. Maybe one more veteran arm will be added, but I suppose the Mets will keep at least two roster spots open for Vic Black, Jeurys Familia and Gonzalez Germen. They will bring back Scott Rice & Josh Edgin as the main lefties and Carlos Torres as a long reliever and spot starter. If Bobby Parnell is healthy and Hawkins is back, that´s a full bullpen already. Maybe the Mets will take a couple of flyers on veterans with past success, coming off a down year in 2013 who can be stashed away in Vegas for the time being if no opening arises.
All in all, expect an Opening Day payroll in the $85 to $95 million range and a team that will be expected to win about 85 games in a normal season, without being considered playoff bound in all likelihood. The key will remain growing the talent pool in the farm system and using an improved 2014 team that remains in playoff contention deep into the season as a spring board for 2015 when making the playoffs will be an absolute must.