Aside from Trading or Extending R.A. Dickey, What Else Can the Mets Do?

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New York Mets newsMets still need to field a full roster of competent players

After re-signing David Wright to a lifetime contract, the Mets have now turned their attention to, simultaneously, contractually extending and evaluating the trade market for R.A. Dickey.

Unlike Wright, trading Dickey would not have the same type of PR backlash, and additionally, the return would hypothetically fill a few voids.

But the New York Mets have more than a few voids to fill.

There’s also no guarantee that Dickey will actually be traded before the season starts or that the return would help the 2013 squad right now.

Currently, the Mets have no outfield, starting catcher, or much of a bullpen to speak of.

Trading Dickey could only achieve so much, so besides the [hopefully] inevitable trade–or equally important extension–what else are the Mets going to do this off-season to improve themselves for 2013?

Outfield

It’s truly rare–even for the Mets–to literally have no starting outfield.

Jason Bay was cut from the team (although he’s still owed his full salary and more), Andres Torres was non-tendered and recently signed with the San Francisco Giants, Lucas Duda has yet to proof his value due to his inability to field or hit well enough to be a corner outfielder, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis‘ health and high strikeout total project him as more of a fourth outfielder type.

To confirm, the New York Mets have no starting outfield.

Yet despite the still bleak outlook, there are some options out there.

On the high end, the Mets could entertain signing Cody Ross to man a corner (or center, if the team truly cannot find a better option), but they’ll certainly have to fend off other suitors, and perhaps give-into Ross’ desire of a $20-plus million, three-year deal.

Considering the to-be 32 year-old is coming off a season so drastically contrasted by his home (.298/.356/.565) and away (.232/.294/.390) splits, it’s unlikely Sandy Alderson will overpay for the obvious Fenway-product.

The Mets could always re-sign Scott Hairston (1.5 WAR and .550 SLG against LHP in 2012), but perhaps the team would prefer an infusion of new outfield blood.

The low-end free agents types include Ryan Sweeney (0.5 WAR and .260/.303/.373 line in 2012) and Nyjer Morgan (0.1 WAR and .239/.302/.308 line in 2012), but neither inspires much confidence–thus, it might make more sense to trade for outfielders.

The likes of David Murphy (3.2 WAR), Craig Gentry (2.8 WAR), Will Venable (2.1 WAR), Gerardo Parra (1.6 WAR), Peter Bourjos (1.1 WAR), Roger Bernadina (0.9 WAR), and/or Eric Young (1.8 WAR) would be nice fits with the Mets, and shouldn’t put a dent in the farm.

Catchers

Now onto the trickier segment: catchers.

Josh Thole quickly became a pariah amongst fans as both his offensive (.234/.294/.290 line) and defensive (18 PB, 18 WP, 23% C%) pursuits were not that of a starting Major League catcher.

And that’s probably the most polite, the politically correct way to describe his 2012 season.

In an ideal world, the Mets would acquire a starting catcher–and back-up catcher–stick Thole in Triple-A for the year, and hope sparks fly; perhaps turning himself into a trade chip.

But since the 26 year-old has historically been respectable against right-handed pitching (career .275/.345/.347 line) and there’s little catching talent available, the Mets will realistically just find a platoon partner for Thole–not a replacement.

If the Mets want to “go big,” they could chase long-time Chicago White Sox starter A.J. Pierzynski, who despite just hitting 17 homeruns between 2010 and 2011, smacked a surprising 27 homeruns in 2012.

The 35 year-old’s .501 SLG was also the best rate of his career, and his 2.6 WAR was his best showing since 2003.

Considering Pierzynski is easily the best catching free agent (and pretty good in his own right), it’s unlikely the Mets become an interested party.

Kelly Shoppach was an ideal platoon partner going into 2012 (.241/.344/.444 line against LHP in 2011), and was acquired later in the season.

However, Shoppach did little with the bat (.203/.276/.342 line in 87 PAs) with the Mets, so a reunion tour might not be in the works.

Speaking of reunions, the Mets could potentially sign Jesus Flores, who was originally a Mets farmhand before being plucked by the Washington Nationals in the Rule 5 Draft.

Yet despite showing promise as a starting option back in 2009 (.301/.371/.505 line in 106 PA’s), Flores hasn’t exibited that same ceiling in either 2011 (.209/.253/.314 line in 91 PA’s) or 2012 (.213/.248/.329 line in 296 PA’s).

The right-handed hitter also wouldn’t make a good platoon option with Thole, as he posted a dismal .189/.247/.389 line against left-handed pitching last season.

Similar to outfielders, the Mets should probably pursue a trade for a low-end catcher, with the likes of Michael McKenry (1.7 WAR in 2012), Martin Maldonado (1.5 WAR in 2012), John Buck (0.4 WAR in 2012), George Kottaras (0.2 WAR in 2012), and/or Nick Hundley (-0.6 WAR in 2012, but 3.1 WAR in 2011) being available.

In particular, Hundley could be the best “buy low” option amongst the group.

Bullpen

Despite not pursuing cheap reliever arms like Ryan Madson, Joakim Soria, Sean Burnett, and Koji Uehara so far this off-season, make no qualms about it, the New York Mets need relief pitching.

Luckily, there are still a variety of interesting options. Since Frank Francisco is far from a “sure thing” as closer, it’s possible the Mets will source relievers with late-inning experience.

The recently non-tendered, former-Giants closer Brian Wilson instantly comes to mind as a low-cost, high-reward option.

Granted, the thick-bearded pitcher underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2012, but all signs point to him being healthy come Spring Training 2013.

Even though Wilson saved 36 games for the Giants in 2011, he also walked batters at an astounding 5.1 BB/9 rate–so don’t expect his appearances to be any less stressful than Francisco’s.

The Mets could also ink veteran relievers like Mike Adams (3.27 ERA vs. 3.95 xFIP, 1.39 WHIP, 2.65 K/BB in 2012) and Brandon Lyon (3.10 ERA vs. 3.94 xFIP, 1.24 WHIP, 3.15 K/BB in 2012), who both project better as setup men, but would add much-needed stability to the upper tier of the Mets bullpen.

To beef up the middle inning options, the Mets could look into adding relievers like Scott Atchison (1.58 ERA vs. 3.42 xFIP, 0.99 WHIP, 4.00 K/BB in 2012), Juan Cruz (2.78 ERA vs. 4.49 xFIP, 1.62 WHIP, 1.74 K/BB in 2012), Kameron Loe (4.61 ERA vs. 3.57 xFIP, 1.43 WHIP, 2.75 K/BB in 2012), Hisanori Takahashi (5.54 ERA vs. 3.79 xFIP, 1.25 WHIP, 3.71 K/BB in 2012), and/or Tom Gorzelanny (2.88 ERA vs. 4.21 xFIP, 1.31 WHIP, 2.07 K/BB in 2012).

Or they could roll the dice with recently injured options like Joey Devine (3.52 ERA vs. 4.78 xFIP, 1.26 WHIP, 1.82 K/BB in 2011), Pedro Feliciano (3.30 ERA vs. 3.77 xFIP, 1.53 WHIP, 1.87 K/BB in 2010), Rafael Perez (3.00 ERA vs. 3.86 xFIP, 1.23 WHIP, 1.74 K/BB in 2011), and/or J.P. Howell (3.04 ERA vs. 4.17 xFIP, 1.21 WHIP, 1.91 K/BB in 2012).

Unlike the outfield or catcher markets, the Mets can get really creative building a solid, cheap bullpen via free agency.

Perhaps the biggest question other than the ones surrounding R.A. Dickey is how much the Mets are willing to spend this season to improve the team in the near future.

While it doesn’t make sense for the Mets to chase after a Josh Hamilton-caliber free agent or James Shields-caliber trade target, it would still be prudent to sign or trade for players who could help the 2013 squad, and potentially become flippable chips come the deadline.

One can only hope that the haul for trading Dickey helps the team now and in the future, but come Opening Day, the obvious cannot be ignored: the Mets still need to field a full roster of competent players–a characteristic the current roster is severely lacking.