SAN DIEGO - The Mets' most prominent need this offseason remains at shortstop, where the team has scoured the market for an upgrade over Wilmer Flores.
But on the eve of the official start of baseball's winter meetings, general manager Sandy Alderson said Flores still remains the most likely starter at shortstop come Opening Day.
"I'd say where we are today, that's the likelihood," Alderson said Sunday night. "But that doesn't mean it'll happen. But if you look around at all the possibilities, is it more likely than not? Probably."
The dynamic nature of the winter meetings could speed up the Mets' search. Nevertheless, Alderson's stance isn't altogether surprising considering a market filled with imperfect choices that may prove too costly for the Mets in terms of talent and money.
For instance, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie and Stephen Drew remain available on the free-agent market. But the Mets have no interest in offering them long-term deals. Instead, if the Mets get involved with free agents, Alderson said it would happen later in the offseason.
The players available in the trade market could offer the Mets some hope to upgrade over Flores, who has some offensive upside though he lacks the range typically needed to play shortstop. But thus far, none of the choices have prompted the Mets to move aggressively.
Starlin Castro of the Cubs and Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox could be attractive targets, though their respective clubs have given little indication that either is available in a trade. The Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki has a cost-prohibitive six years, $116 million left on his deal.
In the case of those three, the Mets would likely have to consider parting with one of their dynamic young arms.
The White Sox have explored trading veteran Alexei Ramirez, though the Mets don't view him as an ideal fit. The Mariners could deal Brad Miller, who possesses the kind of offensive upside that the Mets value. But there appears to be little traction on that front.
Of course, as the Yankees proved, trading for a shortstop isn't impossible. They acquired Didi Gregorius from the Diamondbacks in a three-team deal. But Alderson confirmed that the Mets had little interest in the glove-first shortstop.
The Mets' stance was only reinforced, according to a source, when the Diamondbacks asked for top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard in return during initial talks regarding Gregorius. "It's relatively smaller with Gregorius having been traded," Alderson said of the remaining trade possibilities. "But it was a small number to begin with."
The Mets' other needs entering the meetings include a righthanded bat off the bench capable of playing the outfield and first base and an experienced lefthanded reliever to pair with Josh Edgin.