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Mets (who don't have first-round draft pick) still in search of offense

The New York Mets' Michael Cuddyer walks back

The New York Mets' Michael Cuddyer walks back to the dugout after striking out as the Arizona Diamondbacks' Jarrod Saltalamacchia, left, throws the ball back to the pitcher during the first inning of a game Thursday, June 4, 2015, in Phoenix. Photo Credit: AP / Ross D. Franklin

Like a massive public works project gone bad, the Mets have poured tons of time and money into revamping a lineup that's still prone to blackouts.

The latest attempt to solve the power shortage took the form of 36-year-old outfielder Michael Cuddyer, the reason the Mets did not select until the second round in Monday night's amateur draft.

The Mets' original first pick -- No. 14 overall -- was lost as compensation to signing Cuddyer to a two-year, $22-million deal. Has it all been worth it?

"Look back at the end of the year and we'll have a better idea of if it worked or not," assistant general manager John Ricco said Sunday.

Indeed, a full answer will unfold only with more time. But with the draft beginning Monday night and the Mets in the thick of the race in the NL East, a clearer picture soon should begin to emerge.

If the signing of Cuddyer was considered a "win-now" move, one designed to push the Mets toward the playoffs, it has been a success. The first-place Mets (31-27) are a half-game ahead of the Nationals, the heavy favorites to win the division. And Cuddyer recently has turned his fortunes, though he's hardly been a transformational force.

After a series sweep by the Cubs at Wrigley Field in mid-May, the veteran called himself out, citing a need to do better than the .235/.296/.355 slash line he had produced to that point. In his 20 games since that series, he is hitting .329/.376/.494 with three homers and 11 RBIs.

"The frustration was there but my confidence never wavered . . . and it's two separate things," said Cuddyer, whose importance in the lineup has grown because of the injuries to David Wright, Travis d'Arnaud and Daniel Murphy. "There has been points in my career where I would step in the box wishing I wasn't the one stepping in the box right now. That hasn't been the case this year."

The cost of signing Cuddyer manifests itself in other ways. When the Mets lost their first-round selection, they also lost a chunk of bonus-pool money.

The Mets entered the draft with an allotment of roughly $3.6 million, according to Baseball America, the lowest amount in all of baseball. That means they have the least amount of flexibility in offering bonuses in later rounds to sway players who might be considering college.

The Mets did not select until the 53rd overall pick Monday night.

Improving the offense has been an ongoing effort for general manager Sandy Alderson, though the Mets have yet to finish better than the middle of the pack.

Of the five major-league contracts the Mets have awarded since the winter of 2013, four have gone to position players, an investment of more than $90 million, including Curtis Granderson's four-year, $60-million deal. Granderson, 34, bats in the leadoff spot. He owns a .720 OPS in his two seasons with the Mets, well below his lifetime mark of .812.

Last offseason, the Mets moved in the fences at Citi Field, hired one of the game's most respected hitting coaches in Kevin Long and added Cuddyer to lengthen a lineup that produced before it was slammed by injuries.

"We got a little glimpse of that," Ricco said of a lineup that is third worst in the NL (3.78 runs per game). "I think we're pretty optimistic we'll get back to that at some point. It's a long season. But at some point, we'll get back to that, and I think Mike is a great and hugely important piece of that."


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