The New York Mets came into this offseason knowing they would once again be on a tight financial budget. They had to spend wisely and avoid pursuing big-name free agents (such as Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke) to fill the holes in their lineup.
Instead, they had to be active in the trade market and search towards the bottom of the barrel for potential finds.
Given their parameters, the Mets should feel happy as we head into spring training. They made the necessary moves without overspending or depleting themselves of prospects.
In fact, they now walk away from this winter's madness with a talented young catcher, a reliable starting pitcher, a new-look bullpen and some quality outfield depth.
These may not be flashy, front-page acquisitions. But they should help the Mets be at least respectable in 2013.
When the Mets sent Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey north of the border to Toronto, some fans were dismayed. Dickey was coming off one of the best individual pitching seasons the Mets had seen in quite some time—how could they not keep him?
Well, they were able to get two highly-regarded prospects in return, including top catching-prospect Travis d'Arnaud. The Long Beach-native will turn 24 years old next week and has a ton of potential.
He is a former first-round draft pick, and in an injury-shortened 2012, he launched 16 home runs, while sporting a .333 batting average in Triple-A. MLB.com has ranked him the sixth-best prospect in baseball heading into 2013. He is a young, cost-controllable catcher that has tremendous pedigree.
But that's not all the Mets got for Dickey. They also received 20-year old Noah Syndergaard, a tall right-hander from Texas. Syndergaard was selected by the Jays in the first round of the 2010 draft, and already has the makings of a front-line starter (he was ranked the 29th-best prospect in baseball by MLB.com).
This budding battery duo should give Mets fans hope for the future.
And they aren't alone. The Mets have up-and-comers Zack Wheeler (MLB.com's #6 overall prospect), Brandon Nimmo, Wilmer Flores and other talented youngsters. For the first time in several years, the Mets farm system is deep with quality prospects.
Heading into 2012, the Mets had some questions regarding the state of their starting rotation.
No one knew what they were going to get from ace Johan Santana, as he had missed the entire previous season recovering from shoulder surgery. Furthermore, Mike Pelfrey (who has since departed for Minnesota) was in the midst of an inconsistent career stretch with numerous peaks and valleys.
As the season progressed, the holes in New York's rotation became even more evident. Pelfrey made three starts before being shut down for Tommy John surgery. Dillon Gee missed the second half of the season after a blood clot in his right shoulder forced him to the DL. And Santana was ineffective after throwing 138 pitches during his June 1 no-hitter, ultimately being shut down in August.
Yet, while these injuries may have helped derail the Mets' 2012 season as a whole, it did open the door for Matt Harvey to make his debut.
And it was quite a debut. Harvey pitched so effectively in 10 starts last season, he enters spring training with a spot in the rotation all but guaranteed in 2013.
The Mets also signed right-hander Shaun Marcum to a team-friendly one-year, $4 million contract. The 33-year-old has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, but when he is healthy, he eats up innings and is a quality ground-ball pitcher.
Jon Niese really came into his own in 2012 and will look to carry that momentum into this season. If Santana and Gee can prove healthy in spring training, the Mets will have themselves a solid rotation, with help waiting in the wings down in Triple-A.
The Mets bullpen was a mess in 2012. They brought in Frank Francisco to be their closer, and all he did was amass a 5.53 ERA with just 23 saves.
Every outing for the right-hander was a nightmare for manager Terry Collins.
There also was little help behind him. The only reliever to have an ERA under 3.00 was Bobby Parnell (2.49). The grouping of Ramon Ramirez, Jon Rauch, Manny Acosta and Miguel Batista helped give the Mets the second-worst bullpen in the major leagues.
So, accordingly, the Mets came into this offseason with the intent of overhauling the bullpen— and they did just that.
Gone are Rauch, Ramirez, Acosta and Batista. In have come Scott Atchinson and LaTroy Hawkins on minor-league contracts. The Mets also appear to be nearing a deal with Brandon Lyon, who could potentially unseat Francisco as the team's closer.
Granted, none of these pitchers are All-Stars or future Hall-of-Famers. But they have proven to be capable of handling late-inning drama.
At the very least, the Mets accomplished what they set out to do, and that's give the bullpen a much-needed face-lift. The results remain to be seen.
Aside from remaking the bullpen, the Mets also knew they needed to add some depth to their outfield. Currently, the outfield starters project to be Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter—not exactly household names.
So far, the Mets have landed Collin Cowgill in a trade with the Oakland A's and Marlon Byrd on a minor-league contract. Byrd in particular has a real case to make the team out of spring training and could land a starting gig in the outfield. After all, he was an All-Star in 2010 with the Cubs., hitting .293 with 12 home runs that season.
Of course, the big fish the Mets are trying to catch is the speedy Michael Bourn. Reports are inconclusive as to just how significant their interest in the 30-year-old center fielder is, as he would likely come with a hefty price tag.
Plus, he is currently tied to draft-pick compensation, meaning the Mets would have to forfeit the 11th overall selection in this year's draft if they sign Bourn (the team is reportedly seeking ways around that caveat).
But with or without Bourn, Byrd and Cowgill will give the Mets some depth in the outfield. They may not slug 20 home runs or steal 20 bases, but it will give manager Terry Collins the opportunity to mix and match as needed.