In the three seasons since Sandy took over, we have seen a continuous theme of signing veteran players to minor league deals for the soul purpose of acting as a stopgap while the club’s younger internal options develop. More often than not, these acquisitions have favored the veterans, resulting in the prospects starting the season in Binghamton, Buffalo or Las Vegas; and staying there.
When speaking with Sandy Alderson Tuesday at Citi Field; however he seemed more interested in giving his young talents the opportunity to break camp with the team, in particular the fifth spot in the starting rotation.
“We want to preserve a situation where our young guys have a chance to compete for that spot,” said Alderson, responding to a question from Ed Marcus of MMO regarding his plan for the final starting job. “It’s not like we only have one candidate, we’ve got several guys who theoretically could compete for that spot and we don’t want to artificially depress their opportunity.
“So I would say if we bring veterans in we’ll bring them in towards competing with the young guys we have and if the veterans succeed in the competition then our guys go down, if not we have the flexibility to use more of our young guys. You don’t want to use too many young guys to fill holes because then we don’t have any depth going into the latter part of the season.”
One area of the team that has yet to be addressed to this point this winter has been the bullpen, which certainly needs a bit of a makeover by winter’s end. Following up with his aforementioned comments, I asked Alderson if he had the same mentality for the bullpen as he does for the fifth rotation spot, in which case he didn’t seem as open to having his ‘young guys’ in the ‘pen come Opening Day.
“If you take Bobby Parnell out of the bullpen, there’s not a lot of experience there,” said Alderson, thinking over his current relievers. “I’m not sure there’s anybody that in that ‘pen right now that we are looking at that’s actually pitched a full season at the big league level if you just look at the guys on our roster right now. I may be wrong about that but I think that’s right.
“So that has to be an issue; but I think we have time to address that, certainly we can address the experience issue and see what’s available to us by trade and free agency as well.”
Outside of Scott Rice who pitched in 73 games in his rookie campaign last year, Alderson is right; the Mets need some experience in the bullpen. Whether that experience comes via a trade involving a first baseman, or a free agent acquisition, those ares will get perhaps more than their fair shot at making the team out of Spring Training.
Either way, I think the difference in Alderson’s rationale this season is that the Mets young pitching is more developed, and he has the ‘flexibility’ to infuse veteran talent with his own internal options, options he has been working to produce for the better part of three years now.