The crosstown Yankees turned the baseball world upside down Saturday with their pursuit of slugger Giancarlo Stanton. The Mets — again working with a limited payroll — enter this week’s winter meetings with more modest goals.
Bolstering the bullpen remains a top priority, sources told Newsday, as does exploring an intriguing trade market for second basemen.
The Mets could use the winter meetings to initiate trade talks for Josh Harrison, who is coming off an All-Star season for the Pirates. Harrison brings the kind of defensive versatility the Mets covet.
The Mets already have had trade talks for the Indians’ Jason Kipnis and the Tigers’ Ian Kinsler. Those discussions also could be revisited.
Talks involving Kinsler are more advanced than discussions with the Indians about Kipnis, a source said, but another person with knowledge of the situation expressed skepticism about whether the Mets have a match with the Tigers.
The Marlins might attempt to flip Starlin Castro, whom they would acquire from the Yankees once the Stanton trade becomes official. A source said the Mets would be unlikely to seriously pursue Castro, an indication that they prefer other options.
While the Mets may be willing to take on bigger contracts at second base, they appear far less inclined to do so at first base. After various reports indicated they might pursue a big-ticket first baseman such as Carlos Santana, a source said such a signing would be “very unlikely.” Instead, a source indicated that the Mets almost certainly will target a less costly option such as Adam Lind.
It’s a further indication that rookie Dominic Smith still might factor into the Mets’ plans next year. General manager Sandy Alderson has publicly criticized Smith’s conditioning and performance, but it seems the comments were meant to motivate rather than signal a loss of faith in Smith.
The Mets still regard Smith as a question mark, and they intend to bring in veteran help to cover themselves at first base. But they won’t make a significant financial commitment.
If the Mets make a big move at first base, versatility will be a factor. They need an offensive presence capable of playing both first base and rightfield, where they are planning to be without Michael Conforto until early May even though he could return sooner from shoulder surgery.
It’s why the Mets maintain interest in a reunion with Jay Bruce, who can play first base and rightfield. The Mets simply could slide Conforto to centerfield upon his return. But the first base situation might not be resolved until later in the offseason.
Signing a reliever and adding a second baseman appear to be the more pressing agenda items. The Mets remain interested in righthander Bryan Shaw, a mainstay in the Indians’ bullpen under former pitching coach and current Mets manager Mickey Callaway.
Shaw, 30, has shown the ability to stay healthy, posting a 3.52 ERA in 76 2⁄3 innings in a league-leading 79 appearances. A source, however, said Shaw has yet to give any indication that he’s willing to join the Mets.
One rival executive said clubs believe the righthander already has offers in the three-year, $24-million range. Another source indicated that Shaw may be waiting for a four-year deal, a range that would dissuade the Mets from making a move.
The Mets also have targeted Addison Reed, 28, who revived his career with them. He arrived in a waiver deal in 2015 and was dealt to the Red Sox last July as part of a veteran purge. In between, he had a 2.09 ERA in 145 appearances, eye-popping numbers that stemmed from his pinpoint command.
According to a source, the Mets briefly explored an extension for Reed last spring, when he was beginning his final season of team control via arbitration. Those talks fizzled, with Reed hoping to find a longer-term deal once he reached the open market. Reed finished the year with 2.84 ERA in 77 appearances between the Mets and Red Sox.
Notes & quotes: Sources said the Mets have let rival clubs know they are open to trading their starting pitchers, with the exception of Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom. But they have not received much interest . . . If the Mets strike out on trading for a second baseman, a reunion with Jose Reyes remains a possibility, a source said . . . A reunion with Neil Walker appears unlikely and the Mets have shown no interest in signing Howie Kendrick, sources said . . . The Mets are close to hiring a performance director to oversee their training staff. An announcement could come as soon as the winter meetings.