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Mets have about $13 million and trade bait heading into winter meetings

Sandy Alderson speaks at a press conference announcing

Sandy Alderson speaks at a press conference announcing that pitcher Matt Harvey has been diagnosed with a partially torn ligament before a game between the Mets and Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. (Aug. 26, 2013) Credit: AP

The signing of free-agent outfielder Curtis Granderson likely will stand as the centerpiece of the Mets' most active offseason in years. But with baseball's winter meetings starting Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., the club hopes to take advantage of the chance to continue its makeover.

The Mets expect to step up their search for a trade partner interested in one of their first basemen -- Ike Davis or Lucas Duda -- according to a person with knowledge of the team's thinking.

It might be the Mets' next major move after securing Granderson with a four-year, $60-million deal.

One rival executive praised the signing, calling Granderson "undervalued" after a season marred by freak injuries. Another said the agreement will look like a relative bargain as the market for power continues to develop.

It's unclear whether Granderson's contract will be backloaded, as was the case with the previous contract he signed with the Tigers. If it is, such a structure would create more wiggle room for the Mets to finish off their offseason makeover.

The Mets have about $13 million in payroll flexibility remaining, enough to add an established starting pitcher and perhaps an arm for the bullpen. But it's not enough to accommodate both pitchers and a new shortstop to replace Ruben Tejada.

Given his resources, general manager Sandy Alderson could face some intriguing choices at the meetings. While plenty of midrange pitching options remain on the free-agent market, the Mets' choices at shortstop are slim.

Only Stephen Drew would represent an offensive upgrade. But because Drew's asking price remains out of the Mets' range, their best chance to find Tejada's replacement appears to be in a trade.

The Mets prefer not to dip into their store of young pitching, especially with Matt Harvey expected to miss the season recovering from Tommy John surgery. Zack Wheeler and top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard are regarded as virtually untouchable. Nevertheless, the Mets' remaining young arms will draw interest.

"If you've got pitching, you can always make a deal. That's the good thing," a rival executive said. "I know other clubs covet a lot of what they've got."

Second baseman Daniel Murphy remains a trade candidate, though he is not being aggressively shopped. Moving fourth outfielder Eric Young Jr. to second base would give the Mets an in-house replacement if they deal Murphy.

A source said the Mets have no plans to make such a shift, and the team likely will need Murphy's bat in the lineup as it is currently constructed.

Either Davis or Duda remains the most likely Met to be traded, though neither individually is enough to fetch a quality shortstop.

Still, a source said the Mets remain confident that there are enough potential trade partners remaining for first basemen with power. Suitors might include the Rays and the Brewers, both of whom already have engaged the Mets in talks about Davis.

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