General manager Sandy Alderson on Tuesday offered what may be a preview of his offseason plans, signaling that the Mets likely will stick with their internal options at catcher, while possibly pursuing an innings-eater to solidify the starting rotation and a replacement at third base for David Wright.
But when it came to the size of next season’s payroll, and the impact that Michael Conforto’s upcoming shoulder surgery could have on the Mets’ outfield plans going into the offseason, Alderson offered fewer hints.
“The fact that we have so many dollars coming off the books we recognize and a good percentage of that — at this point undermined — certainly will be reinvested in the payroll,” Alderson said. “But I can’t give you a specific number.”
The Mets have roughly $70 million coming off the books. But Alderson would not commit to matching the $155 million the Mets spent on players this season, a total that he said was higher than originally expected.
“I’m certainly not sitting here willing to say OK, it’s going to be at least as high as it was last year,” Alderson said of payroll. “But I think we expect to be a competitive team next year.”
Those plans for a rapid rebuild will rest largely on health, particularly with starting pitching. Alderson indicated that bringing in a veteran starter with a track record of logging innings — a Bartolo Colon-type — could be a priority to help shield the rotation from injury.
“If we were able to find a Bartolo-type who fits into the three, four spot and semi guarantees 180 to 200 innings, that would probably be something that would stabilize our rotation,” Alderson said. “So I think it’s something we look at, yes.”
The Mets also will look at a solution at third base, especially with the 34-year-old Wright grappling with yet another physical hurdle. On Tuesday, he underwent rotator cuff surgery in his bothersome right shoulder.
Alderson said the injury likely was related to “deconditioning” after Wright was shut down from baseball activities after shoulder trouble stopped his attempt at a comeback during spring training.
“His status going into next season has to be uncertain at best,” said Alderson, who did not reveal a potential timeline for recovery. “And that’s something we’re going to have to account for as we go into the offseason.”
Conforto’s absence also may be something that the Mets ultimately must account for, though Alderson said it’s too early to make that call. Conforto is scheduled to have surgery on Wednesday to repair a torn capsule in his left shoulder, fallout from a dislocation suffered during a swing and miss.
Conforto may be out until March, at least. Until then, Alderson said he’ll be keeping an eye on Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo, outfielders who could factor in the Mets’ plans in case Conforto’s absence cuts into next regular season.
Alderson also downplayed concerns that surgery could leave Conforto with an altered or diminished swing, insisting that doctors have indicated no such risk.
“My guess is he will probably have to gradually build to that point,” Alderson said. “But the fact that it’s his left shoulder, which is not his throwing shoulder, the fact that it’s his back shoulder when he swings, I think, according to the doctors, is a positive.”
Meanwhile, Alderson made public the organization’s plans at catcher. The Mets likely will stick with a combination of Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki, partly a function of a free-agent market that features little more than Jonathon Lucroy, who is coming off a down year.
While d’Arnaud entered Tuesday night hitting only .229 and has had issues controlling the running game, Alderson cited the catcher’s above-average pitch-framing ability. Meanwhile, Plawecki has hit .314 since being promoted in August.
“Actually, I think we feel pretty good about those two,” Alderson said. “The other thing you have to do of course is evaluate what other options exist. At that position, I think it would be difficult for us to find a pair that we like appreciably better. I think we’ve been generally happy with our catching play.”