The New York Mets came into this offseason with a number of holes and/or question marks surrounding their pending 2014 roster. And with a bit more money to spend than in recent winters, the expectation is that the Mets will make moves that are best fitted for the club's present and future.
They answered (perhaps in a small way) one of their questions, signing Chris Young to patrol some part of their outfield.
But one of the bigger question marks that remains for the Mets is their shortstop situation. Incumbent Ruben Tejada is recovering from a broken fibula, and his relationship with the Mets appears to be somewhat strained.
And, now with the St. Louis Cardinals swooping in and signing free agent Jhonny Peralta, shortstop options for the New York Mets have begun to dwindle. ESPN New York writer Adam Rubin agrees that the Mets' choices are very limited.
Here's a look at some of the Mets' fallback options for shortstops, now that Peralta is off the board.
With Peralta no longer available, Stephen Drew represents the top free agent shortstop on the market. After being offered a qualifying offer by the Boston Red Sox, Drew is tied to draft pick compensation. However, with the Mets first-round pick protected, they are willing to part with a draft selection if the signing is right.
Drew may wind up being out of the Mets' price range though. The 30-year-old shortstop is coming off a decent campaign in which he hit 13 home runs and helped the Red Sox claim their third World Series championship in 10 years. He is said to be seeking a multi-year contract, and after Peralta's four-year, $53 million contract, the notion is that Drew could do better than that (Drew is a year younger than Peralta).
Of course, Drew is down a suitor and is tied to compensation, which could hurt his value slightly. But with Scott Boras at his side, Drew should still get a bigger contract than the Mets are probably willing to offer.
Once a member of the division-rival Atlanta Braves, Rafael Furcal is currently a free agent shortstop. It's unclear whether or not the Mets view him as a viable option, especially considering that he missed the entire 2013 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
However, Furcal was an All-Star in 2012 for the Cardinals and could be a low-risk, high-reward signing at age 36. He would likely be a short-term option, though, and the Mets would ideally like to have someone to man the position for at least a few years.
If the Mets are unable to find a worthy shortstop on the free agent market, and are unwilling to let Ruben Tejada have sole possession of the position, the could explore the trade market. On intriguing name could be Jed Lowrie, currently of the Oakland A's.
The 29-year-old will be a free agent following the 2014 season, and the A's have been known to deal young players on the verge of free agency (Gio Gonzalez, et al). And, prior to signing Peralta, the Cardinals were reportedly interested in swinging a deal for Lowrie.
Lowrie smashed 15 home runs last year and hit a cool .290 in his first season in Green and Gold. The Mets most likely have the young pitching in the farm system needed to lure Lowrie away from the A's. It remains to be seen if that's the direction the Mets wish to go.
Of course, the Mets could just stand pat, let Tejada handle shortstop, and focus their efforts elsewhere. After all, the team has had high hopes for the Panama native since it signed him in 2006. He's mainly been a disappointment offensively since his arrival in 2010, but he just turned 24 years old and could very well turn his career around.
There's still a chance that the Mets could part ways with Tejada, given his possible grievance against the team and his less than stellar statistics. It's an intriguing situation for the Mets...do they keep Tejada for another year and see what the 2014-2015 offseason brings? Or do they cut ties now and find a stopgap replacement? I do not envy the task of general manager Sandy Alderson, that's for sure.