The Mets enter the offseason with no shortage of needs.
The outfield could use a dangerous bat or two. At first base, the Mets must decide whether Lucas Duda or Ike Davis can hold down the position. And general manager Sandy Alderson already has mentioned that he will be in the market for a shortstop, a reliable backup catcher and perhaps a veteran starting pitcher if Matt Harvey opts to have elbow surgery.
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While filling those holes, the Mets also must identify players who can take advantage of the quirks of Citi Field, where the team has struggled. But for the first time in Alderson's tenure as general manager, the Mets are in a position to address those needs in a big way.
With upward of $50 million coming off the books by season's end from expiring contracts for Johan Santana, Jason Bay and Frank Francisco, the Mets will have room to work. The team's only long-term contracts belong to David Wright and lefthanded starter Jonathon Niese.
"It's a big step forward anytime you have the financial flexibility I think we're going to have coming into the offseason," said Wright, who signed his extension with the belief that the Mets would take a step forward in 2014. "My expectations are, whether it's through trades or free-agent signings or a combination of both, that this team is significantly better next year than it was this year."
The Mets could enter the free-agent market with thoughts of writing big checks. Certainly, those opportunities exist. Reds outfielder Shin-Soo Choo headlines a group of free-agent outfielders who likely will entice the Mets. And with shortstop Ruben Tejada's fall from favor, the Mets could replace him with a free agent such as the Tigers' Jhonny Peralta.
Indeed, potential solutions might be just one check away.
Said Wright: "No question that I think as far as trades and free agents go, this is the offseason that we have the opportunity to pull the trigger."
While the market for outfielders is still a long way from taking shape, Saturday teams caught a glimpse of what might be expected. According to multiple sources, the Giants signed Hunter Pence to a five-year, $90-million contract extension, preventing the outfielder from reaching free agency.
It's a level of investment the Mets should be capable of making, though less clear is whether they are willing to take such a large gamble on any players on the market.
According to a team source, the club also is investigating other ways to leverage their financial flexibility. One such method, the source said, involves potential trades in which the Mets absorb large contracts from other teams. In exchange, the Mets would extract even more young talent to fill holes.
Also clear to the front office is the team's disturbing trend of struggles at home. For instance, this season, with one game remaining, the Mets are 32-48 at home and 41-40 on the road. It's a distinction that should factor into the team's offseason decisions.
"You can't hide somebody in the outfield here without getting exposed like you could in smaller ballparks, and that's just one example," Wright said. "Fly ball pitchers might do well here, where in other parks they wouldn't do well. No question, I think there's certain types of players that we could target, not just physically but personality-wise, because it takes more to produce in New York and feel comfortable here."
And an industry source said the Mets have placed an emphasis on adding power to their lineup, perhaps enough to take better advantage of Citi Field's dimensions.
But even with the potential to splurge, free agency is hardly a cure-all for the Mets, who properly must evaluate the talent they already have on hand.
Take Duda and Davis at first base: Both have exhibited power, though neither has paired it with consistency.
"There's too many holes to fill to go out there and sign every free agent, make every trade possible," Wright said. "Some of those holes have to be filled from within."