Ranking the New York Mets' Biggest Needs Heading into Free Agency

Jason Lempert@MetsPride84Correspondent IOctober 14, 2013

Ranking the New York Mets' Biggest Needs Heading into Free Agency

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    Another year, another losing season for the New York Mets. The Mets finished below .500 for the fifth consecutive season, and fans are starting to get frustrated.

    But, there is hope for 2014 and beyond. The Mets will have some money to play with during the offseason, as the crippling contracts of Johan Santana and Jason Bay will be coming to a close. General manager Sandy Alderson has indicated that the Mets do intend to spend, but they intend to spend wisely.

    So, with the offseason free agent frenzy on the horizon, here's a look at the top needs for Alderson and the Mets.

5. Relief Pitcher

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    On September 10, Mets' closer Bobby Parnell underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck. He's confident that he'll be ready for spring training, but if he's not, Terry Collins has indicated that mid-season acquisition Vic Black would be given the closer role to start the season. Black, 25, recorded one save in 2013, his first big-league season.

    Aside from Black, the ageless LaTroy Hawkins represents a possible closer solution. But Hawkins is a free agent and, even though he'll be entering the season at age 41, he notched 13 saves for the Mets last year after taking over for the injured Parnell. He could prove to be more expensive than the Mets are willing to pay for a 41-year-old reliever.

    Overall, the Mets' bullpen had a composite 3.98 ERA, which ranked 12th in the league. Aside from Hawkins, they could look towards other free agent relievers to help bolster their bullpen. Strictly speaking from speculation, Joba Chamberlain, Matt Guerrier and Manny Para could make sense as possible targets.

4. Outfielder

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    In 2013, manager Terry Collins used a plethora of outfield combinations. Seven different players started in right and left field, while eight started in center. Overall, Mets outfielders combined to hit just .238 with only 50 homeruns total. And their .685 OPS was the worst in the National League. Needless to say, the Mets are in need of a bit of an overhaul in the outfield for 2014.

    Eric Young Jr., who came over in a mid-season trade with the Rockies, was outstanding for the Mets. He wound up being the NL leader in stolen bases with 46 (38 of which came with the Mets). Still, he may end up being a fourth outfielder and/or second baseman for the club in 2014. 

    Juan Lagres came out of nowhere and looked very impressive in his rookie season. He should have a place in the outfield next season. But Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Andrew Brown have not shown they are capable of a starting outfield gig. And Matt den Dekker is still young and has room to grow.

    The Mets have some young, up-and-coming outfielders in the system, highlighted by 2011 first-round draft pick Brandon Nimmo. But none are primed and ready for big-league action in 2014. 

    So, you can expect the Mets to be targeting at least one outfielder to fill their need. Currently, they have been rumored to have interest in Shin-Soo Choo, and possibly Jacoby Ellsbury. There have also been talks of a possible reunions with Carlos Beltran and/or Marlon Byrd, but I find the former to be a distant possibility.

3. Shortstop

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    The Mets have given Ruben Tejada every opportunity to succeed as their starting shortstop. And so far, he has not been very impressive. He missed a large chunk of the 2013 season. First he spent time on the disabled list with a strained quad. Then, after his DL stint was over, he was demoted to Triple-A rather than being activated onto the Major League roster.

    Tejada was recalled in September, but subsequently broke his right fibula just 10 days later. His 2014 season is certainly in a state of flux, though manager Terry Collins has challenged him to "show everyone he wants (the starting shortstop gig) desperately."

    Still, with the other shortstop options not being any better (such as Omar Quintanilla and Justin Turner), the Mets may want to look towards free agency to find a starting shortstop. Stephen Drew, Brendan Ryan and Jhonny Peralta are some likely targets.

2. Catcher

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    When the Mets dealt John Buck to the Pirates in August, they pretty much handed the starting catcher keys over to young backstop Travis d'Arnaud. And while the soon-to-be 25-year-old offers a ton of promise and upside, there's no denying the Mets would love to have a veteran presence as a fallback option.

    The recently-released Henry Blanco could be an ideal target. A reunion with Buck isn't out of the question, either. Regardless, the Mets are reportedly seeking a veteran catcher to backup d'Arnaud.

1. Starting Pitcher

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    With the recent announcement that young ace Matt Harvey will undergo Tommy John surgery, the Mets find themselves down a starting pitcher. And while there aren't many free agent starters that could fill the void left by Harvey's absence—he will all but likely miss the entire 2014 season—there's no question that Sandy Alderson will be looking for an arm.

    One pitcher that will be on the market and has been linked to the Mets is none other than Johan Santana. Santana has been a member of the Mets' rotation since 2008, but injuries have made his once-promising Mets career into a financial nightmare. The only way I could see Santana return to the Mets is on a one-year, incentive-laden deal, at no more than $1 million.

    Bronson Arroyo of the Cincinnati Reds is another possible target. Arroyo eats up innings and always gives his club a chance to win the game. He would be a welcomed veteran presence in an otherwise young and inexperienced Mets rotation.