There are only a few weeks before the 2012 regular season ends and the New York Mets can forget the misery they endured. The Mets have been out of the playoff race for quite some time now, and some of the offseason process has already begun.
The club has been showcasing some of their prospects and evaluating their potential for the future. Along with that, the Mets should already have most of the homework done on the free agent market.
Everyone knows the Mets' financial issues will hold them back and keep them from spending large amounts of money, so general manager Sandy Alderson really has to put in extra time to evaluate and make sure all his moves fit within the organization.
Since this impending free agent market is not exactly one to write home about, the job of finding players will be even more difficult.
Here are seven players the Mets should at the very least take a look at this offseason...
**Note: Free agent list courtesy of spotrac.com
There is proof that the Mets have already been thinking ahead past this season with a move that addressed a key weak spot on the team.
A little more than a month ago, the Mets traded for catcher Kelly Shoppach from the Boston Red Sox for an audition to see if he fits with the team. So far, so good.
The Mets knew Shoppach has pop, and he has provided that in his short stint in New York. What they were not aware of was his ability to work behind the plate. The Mets have been impressed to say the least.
Shoppach has taken advantage of this opportunity and most likely will be rewarded for that. Before the Mets look elsewhere for help, the club probably will take care of everyone that is in-house already.
Shoppach should be on the top of that list.
Scott Hairston is another in-house player the Mets should look to retain.
The fact that he has hit 17 home runs in 319 at-bats makes him intriguing to any club. Add in the fact that he is one of the better platoon outfielders in the majors, and he may attract more teams than the Mets bargain for.
The Mets have the inside track in re-signing him, but they may have to pay more than the $1.1 million they signed him for before the 2012 season.
Hairston smashes left-handed pitchers, and in a lineup that lacks right-handed power, the Mets need all the help they can get.
They may have to pay a little more to sign him back, but more importantly, not having him back for the 2013 season may prove even more costly.
Believe it or not, the Mets were at one point playing very well, and there were talks before the All-Star break of making moves to bolster the bullpen as the club made a push for the playoffs.
Of course, that never came to fruition. But, before the Mets completely fell apart, rumors were swirling about relief pitcher Jonathan Broxton coming to Citi Field.
Broxton has pitched very well in 2012, and his combined stats suggest that he will be highly sought-after once free agency hits.
The Mets have a clear interest in Broxton, and with the current state of the bullpen in shambles, he may be at the top of their list.
After breaking into the big leagues as a New York Met, Jeff Keppinger has bounced around the league because everyone has interest in a super-utility man.
Keppinger is the kind of ball player every club would love to have. He seemingly would be a perfect fit for the Mets and someone manager Terry Collins would really enjoy having on the team.
Keppinger is not a player that will make fans jump up and down by signing with the Mets. But he is a player that fans appreciate because of how he plays the game and his professional attitude.
The Mets would be very privileged to sign a player of Keppinger's quality. Depending on what they do with Ronny Cedeno, bringing Keppinger aboard could be even more important.
If the Mets do not re-sign Scott Hairston, Cody Ross is an outfielder with the same qualities that they could really utilize.
Ross has 21 home runs with a .277 average and .847 OPS in 419 at-bats. He has plenty of pop left in that bat and has been one of the few bright spots for the Boston Red Sox this season.
Ross is another gritty player that could really provide some energy to a team that desperately needs it. His arm and range make him a quality corner outfielder, and the Mets need help at those positions going into 2013.
Add in the fact that Ross is a proven Phillies killer, making the incentive to bring Ross into the fold all the richer.
The New York Mets are going to need a center fielder for 2013. Andres Torres is eligible for arbitration this offseason, but he has been unimpressive, to say the least. The club should look to improve at the position.
Shane Victorino may just fit the bill. There are a couple of high-profile names at the position becoming available once this winter hits, but the Mets can not afford to obtain the services of Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton or Michael Bourn.
Look for all of those players to find teams quickly, leaving Victorino available. He may not be back with the Los Angeles Dodgers depending on the health of Carl Crawford. He also could be signed at a fair rate in comparison to his higher-profile counterparts.
The Mets know what Victorino can do. They have seen him torch the club time in and time out since he became an integral part of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2006. He is a top-of-the-lineup hitter that Mets sorely miss.
Time will tell how the market unfolds, but the early outlook says this could be a very possible match.
Ryan Madson is the only player on this list that will not technically be a free agent this winter, at least not yet.
He signed a one-year deal with the Reds before the 2012 season with a mutual option for $11 million in 2013. It seems highly unlikely the Reds will opt to pick that up.
If that happens to be the case, he will become available.
Yes, Madson is coming off Tommy John surgery and did not pitch at all in 2012. But if he proves to be healthy, he could become a key component to any big league bullpen.
Madson was lights out in his one season as a closer in 2011 for the Philadelphia Phillies. He also is a proven set-up man.
Although there are other matters that need to be resolved before Madson becomes available, when the time comes, the Mets should at the very least take a look.