David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
After spending the first half of this week trying to improve the Mets for the next three to five years, Sandy Alderson returned Thursday from the team's draft headquarters in Florida and took a bearish stance on 2015.
The Mets need offensive help. The GM knows it. We know it. Everyone around the league knows it. But Alderson refused to launch into his usual self-deprecating mode when asked about what's being done to bring another bat to Flushing.
Rather than nod along with reporters about the Mets' lineup deficiencies, Alderson explained -- quite accurately -- that other teams aren't ready to dismantle their rosters in early June.
Next month? Sure.
But so far, the general manager hasn't been impressed with the current market, which he labeled as "narrow" as far as choices go.
"I have to emphasize, you're constantly weighing what you have against what's out there," Alderson said. "By and large, the players that are available aren't doing particularly well themselves."
No, Alderson didn't cup a hand to his mouth and whisper, "Aramis Ramirez," to the assembled media. But we got the idea. As Newsday reported a day earlier, the Mets had been kicking the tires on Ramirez, along with other Brewers' position players, but we can understand the lack of enthusiasm.
Other than being a third baseman, and having a history as a run-producer, there's not much to like about Ramirez. He's owed roughly $8.8 million for the rest of this season and is hitting .213 with seven home runs in 49 games.
Oh, did we already mention the $8.8 million?
There's little doubt the Brewers want to extricate themselves from Ramirez, but we can't see them eating enough of that deal to make it palatable for the Mets. Like nearly all of it.
But the trade discussions don't begin and end with Ramirez. In the coming weeks, additional names will surface, and one of the more intriguing things Alderson did say had to do with how those talks may be affected by David Wright's uncertain status.
Wright, you may recall, is sidelined indefinitely by lumbar spinal stenosis, and as each week passes, the Mets are becoming less likely to leave a light on for him at third base. When Wright was brought up, Alderson curtly told reporters there was nothing new regarding his condition -- and the team would not be providing regular updates. In other words, let's not waste each other's time by asking about a guy who's not even close to stepping on a baseball field again.
And as the Mets attempt to fortify a sputtering lineup, they're not going to worry about potentially acquiring a regular third baseman, if that's the best way to achieve their goal. It won't be their first choice. A versatile player like a Ben Zobrist would be the better fit. But the Mets aren't going to restrict their search based on the mere possibility of a Wright return.
"Would we consider a third baseman who can't do anything else?" Alderson said. "Under the circumstances, yeah, we probably would. But we're not just looking for any third baseman. It has to be something we think is an improvement that doesn't cost us significantly."
There are a few definitions of "cost." The money always presents a sizable hurdle for the Mets, who don't go the Yankees' route of scooping up bloated contracts in midseason deals. The other is talent, and we can't imagine the Mets willing to budge on any of their top young pitchers. Yes, we're including Steven Matz in that top four, even though the Mets still are scrambling to find a spot for the former Ward Melville star.
The Matz scenario is part of the bigger trade picture, too, with Alderson trying to clear a spot to promote him. He's on the same schedule as Jonathon Niese, who pitched well enough Thursday night to keep other teams interested -- and prevent the Mets from panicking about replacing him in the rotation.
But changes are coming. They have to be.
As one Mets official described it, the first two losses to the defending champion Giants, including the no-hitter, highlighted the need for reinforcements.
And soon. Not three years from now.