Mets think someone from group of five will step up to play first base

Ike Davis, right, and Lucas Duda celebrate after

Ike Davis, right, and Lucas Duda celebrate after Duda's two-run home run in the third inning of a game against the Philadelphia Phillies. (Aug. 29, 2012) (Credit: AP)

The Mets' five-man logjam at first base includes a pair of players whose struggles warranted temporary exile to the minor leagues in 2013. Among the other three are an unproven prospect, a converted second baseman and a longtime minor-leaguer who profiles as more of a reserve.

Yet the Mets appear to be prepared to take their chances with their current crop of candidates, even though each carries question marks.

"I understand that,'' Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said Thursday. "But when you're looking at filling out an entire roster, I think Sandy [Alderson] and his staff look at it [as] you believe that somebody in that group could step up and be a productive guy for a quality team.''

The Mets begin the offseason with needs in the outfield, at shortstop, in the back end of the starting rotation and in the bullpen.

With more than $40 million in expiring contracts, they insist they have the financial muscle to infuse the roster with talent once the free agency period begins Tuesday.

But at first base, the Mets are looking to stay in-house, as evidenced by their decision to not extend a contract offer to power-hitting Cuban defector Jose Abreu. The White Sox ultimately agreed to a six-year, $68-million deal.

Ike Davis and Lucas Duda appear to be the two leading in-house candidates at first base, along with rookie infielder Wilmer Flores, current second baseman Daniel Murphy and longtime minor-leaguer Josh Satin.

On the heels of a 32-homer season, Davis entered 2013 as the starting first baseman, but another first-half tailspin landed him in Triple-A Las Vegas. He experienced a modest bounce-back upon his return but finished with only nine homers.

For the second straight year, the Mets cast Duda as an outfielder, only for the experiment to fail. He finished with 15 homers after seeing more action at first base down the stretch but has yet to establish himself as a dependable run-producer.

Flores, Satin and Murphy have yet to display the power that essentially is a prerequisite for playing first base.

Wilpon, however, reiterated that adding a first baseman is not on the Mets' priority list.

"Why would I sign a high- priced guy at that position?'' said Wilpon, who acknowledged that some of the Mets' choices at first base have attracted interest in the trade market. "I'd rather use that money and fill somewhere else where we really don't have anybody right now.''

Notes & quotes: Wilpon added Murphy, catcher Travis d'Arnaud and outfielder Juan Lagares to the players he believes have solidified roster spots for 2014. Earlier this week, he put David Wright, Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee and Jon Niese in that group . . . Seven Mets officially filed for free agency: David Aardsma, Tim Byrdak, Pedro Feliciano, Frank Francisco, Aaron Harang, LaTroy Hawkins and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Johan Santana is expected to join that list when the Mets give him a $5.5-million buyout instead of exercising their club option for $25 million.

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