As the Mets look to shore up their infield needs, and with plenty of free agents still available in this frozen market, Sandy Alderson strongly hinted Thursday that you probably can scratch Mike Moustakas off any potential wish list.
Alderson took questions from fans and media at Citi Field before the Mets’ truck was loaded up for Port St. Lucie, Florida. Although third base looms as the most obvious hole — given David Wright’s uncertain health status and Asdrubal Cabrera’s preference to play second base, as the New York Post recently reported — Alderson still hasn’t warmed to paying Moustakas, even in what has shaped up as an unprecedented buyers’ market.
When a fan asked about Moustakas directly, Alderson recoiled at the compensation attached to signing a qualifying free agent, as well as the fact that he plays only third base. Alderson seems to prefer the flexibility of a free agent such as Eduardo Nuñez, maybe old friend Neil Walker, even Josh Harrison, who would necessitate a trade with the Pirates. Put another way, if Alderson is going to sign a third baseman, he’d rather go with a less costly option such as Todd Frazier. Then again, with free agency at a standstill, nobody really knows what the going rate is for these players.
“Well, it’s possible what he’ll end up doing is signing a one-year contract,” Alderson said of Moustakas. “I don’t know. There are a couple of things involved there. One is draft- choice compensation and loss of international pool money. Both of which are key to us improving what is now a less robust farm system, so we’ve got to be careful there.”
Alderson was quick to point out that the Mets have done more this winter than “probably 80 percent” of the teams, the bulk of which involved the three-year, $39-million contract given to Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak’s two-year, $14-million deal. Alderson also brought back Jose Reyes on a one-year, $2-million contract and added Adrian Gonzalez at the $545,000 minimum.
Alderson certainly doesn’t sound as if he’s in a hurry to secure further upgrades, other than waiting to see what develops in the next 10 days. It’s been that kind of winter, and Alderson isn’t alone in that philosophy.
“There’s a reason that the market has been stagnant, and it’s not just because clubs aren’t spending money,” he said. “It’s because players aren’t prepared to sign contracts currently, given where the marketplace is. I’m sure that will change at some point, one way or the other. Things will loosen up on one side or both. But right now, it isn’t just clubs that are not signing players, it’s players not signing contracts. They’re as cautious as some teams have been.”
The standoff can’t last for much longer, not with camps opening in less than two weeks, and Alderson repeatedly mentioned another potentially cost-efficient way to acquire players once the free agents begin to sign. With most of the teams dealing with a 40-man roster crunch, players are going to be squeezed off, just as the Mets lost Chase Bradford on a waiver claim and were forced to deal Josh Smoker on Wednesday. Alderson could be resourceful on that front, too.
“There’s going to be a lot of roster churn among the other teams and other opportunities,” Alderson said. “It’s going to be interesting the next two or three weeks.”