As 2013 begins, the MLB offseason will start coming closer to an end with spring training set to begin in less than six weeks. The Mets were active in December and made a blockbuster trade with the Blue Jays that sent reigning NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, plus catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas to the Blue Jays in exchange for catchers Travis D'Arnaud and John Buck, as well as pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard and outfield prospect Wuilmer Becerra.
Despite this big trade, the Mets are the only team in all of baseball that has not given a major league contract to any free agent this offseason. They have reached some minor league deals, with Aaron Laffey being the most recent addition to the Mets organization.
Nonetheless, the Mets still have work to do in certain areas before spring training begins. Here are a few of the most notable rumors surrounding the Mets and whether they are likely to become a reality.
After hitting 20 home runs with the Mets last season, Scott Hairston is now a free agent. With a desperate need for another right-handed power bat in the lineup, the Mets are rumored to be trying to re-sign him for at least 2013.
After having been signed to consecutive one-year contracts by the Mets in 2011 and 2012, Hairston is now looking for a two-year contract, according to Adam Rubin of ESPN.
Furthermore, Hairston was more of a platoon player for the Mets until poor hitting from other Mets outfielders led to him being an everyday starter for most of the second half of the season.
The Mets, though, are not the only team interested in Hairston. Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports reports that the crosstown Yankees remain interested in Hairston, although they would prefer not to sign him to a multi-year deal.
The Mets do seem to be interested in re-signing Hairston. It will be interesting to see, though, how far they will be willing to go with the money and years. With the Mets' need for a right-handed hitting outfielder being as great as it is, look for Hairston and the Mets to reach a deal within a few weeks.
If the Mets are unable to re-sign Hairston, they could go back to the trade market and check in on Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks again.
Upton has been one of the most highly sought outfielders in the trade market this offseason. In early December, he was rumored to be in a possible four-team trade, according to Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated.
A week later, though, Ken Rosenthal (via SB Nation Arizona) reported that the Diamondbacks do not plan on trading Upton.
Whether Upton gets traded or not is yet to be determined, but the Mets are not likely to be a destination for Upton this offseason.
Another superstar outfielder whose name has made its way to various trade rumors is Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins.
After watching five of his former teammates get traded to the Blue Jays earlier in the offseason, it appeared that the Marlins were doing one of their famous fire sales by trading away their big veteran contracts in exchange for packages of minor league prospects.
Stanton was clearly unhappy with the trade and took his feelings to his Twitter account. Yet despite his personal feelings toward the Marlins, ESPN's Jim Bowden (via MLB Daily Dish) recently reported that the Marlins will not make a big effort to trade Stanton, but would be willing to listen to any potential offers nonetheless.
At just 23 years old, Stanton is already one of the most talented young hitters in all of baseball. He is a perennial slugger with 71 home runs in the last two seasons and a league leading .608 slugging percentage in 2012. Any deal involving Stanton would almost certainly require a team to give up at least a few of of its very top prospects. Furthermore, due to the fact that he will not be a free agent until 2017, Stanton would not cost significant money for any team he plays for.
If the Mets were to acquire Stanton, he would instantly fulfill the team's need of a right-handed outfielder with power. However, the cost for Stanton would likely be too high for the Mets to afford, so if Stanton does get traded, the Mets will most likely not be his new destination.
After R.A. Dickey got traded to the Blue Jays, the Mets instantly had a new hole in their rotation that they will need to fill before the start of spring training.
So far, the Mets' Opening Day rotation will consist of Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Johan Santana and Dillon Gee. Jenrry Mejia is more likely to play in the minor leagues in order to develop further, so the Mets will more than likely need to sign a fifth starting pitcher to round out their rotation.
Davidoff noted that the Mets could try to make a trade with the Dodgers for Chris Capuano or Aaron Harang as well.
Earlier in December, Marc Carig of Newsday reported that southpaw Joe Saunders is also on the Mets' radar.
The Mets will probably try to avoid giving more than a one-year contract to any free-agent pitcher this offseason. Top prospect Zack Wheeler will likely get promoted to the Mets sometime in the 2013 season, while Santana has battled injuries over the past few years and is unlikely to be healthy throughout the entire 2013 season. Those two reasons make it necessary for the Mets to sign a veteran free-agent starting pitcher in the coming weeks. The only question now is which of the aforementioned pitchers will become a Met.
The Mets bullpen could also use upgrades and improvements after having the second-worst bullpen ERA in all of baseball during the 2012 season.
The Mets already have a closer in Frank Francisco, plus a setup man in Bobby Parnell. They also have Josh Edgin, Robert Carson, Jeremy Hefner and Jeurys Familia in their projected 2013 Opening Day bullpen. With this being said, it appears that the Mets will have at least one opening in their bullpen that could be determined during spring training or even before that through a free-agent signing.
John Heyman of CBS Sports has reported that the Mets are still looking for bullpen help. He mentions Jose Valverde and Matt Capps as two potential options, especially because both have had experience as closers. This would certainly be something for the Mets to consider because Francisco had a very poor season in 2012 and the Mets could use a better closer as a result.
Valverde was not nearly as dominant in 2012 as he was in 2011, but still had 35 saves and a 3.78 ERA. However, he pitched very poorly in the 2012 postseason and lost his closing duties to Phil Coke as the Tigers won the AL pennant, but got swept by the Giants in the World Series.
Capps has spent the last two seasons with the Twins, but only appeared in 30 games in 2012 due to injuries.
The Mets are not in the greatest position financially to spend on free agents and will almost certainly not give any free-agent relief pitcher anything more than a one-year contract. Unless the Mets front office suddenly wants to sign a new closer to overtake Francisco, the Mets will most likely not add a new free-agent reliever to their bullpen. Paying extra money to a free-agent starting pitcher would make a lot more sense at this point than to overpay a reliever.