Five ways to fix the Mets from the bargain bins

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If money is no object in free agency this offseason, the Mets should simply embrace the 2015 Royals team that beat them in the World Series.

They should sign Wade Davis to close, move Jeurys Familia to the eighth inning, Jerry Blevins and A.J. Ramos before that and form a super bullpen.

They should sign Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer, and turn Juan Lagares and Dom Smith into trade chips.

They should sign Mike Moustakas to play third base, because even if I think Moustakas is imperfect for New York, well, he has tons of needed power and would have all his old Kansas City buddies to make it feel like home.

But the idea of money being no object with the Mets probably makes their fans laugh more than “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Money is an object. The payroll is not going up. The expectation is it is going down. One person familiar with the team’s thinking believes it could drop as much as $20 million to, say, the $135 million range.

Thus, the Royal flush dream scenario can be tossed down the drain, along with the 2017 season. Sandy Alderson is going to be tasked with trying to return the Mets to contention while cutting payroll and not having a strong farm system from which to repopulate the roster or make trades. This is not as daunting as what Alderson faced when he took over after the 2010 season. But it’s pretty darn daunting.

The Mets should have roughly $30 million to $40 million available to them this offseason depending on how deep the slash is — and perhaps another $15 million if they assume insurance will again be taking care of a major portion of David Wright’s salary. So it is hard to pinpoint exactly what the Mets can afford, but with lots of needs, I believe they will have to avoid the top of the market and spread what they do have to spend around. Some thoughts:

1. Fix the pen

In this age, teams must have deep pens. For the Mets, the extra reason is to shorten games to protect their fragile rotation.

Juan Nicasio

My gut says the Mets will invest in one reliever. I think it should be two — one lefty, one righty — and have them join Familia, Blevins and Ramos to give whoever is managing confidence that he has five options to get the final 9-12 outs. Think about how the additions of the lefty Sean Doolittle and righty Ryan Madson so quickly changed the Nationals’ pen from weakness to strength this year.

This is a good offseason to hunt in this area. There will be choices of durable righties such as Pat Neshek, Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith and durable lefties such as Tony Watson and (don’t laugh) Oliver Perez. There will be 2017 breakout types, such as righties Brandon Morrow and Anthony Swarzak and lefties Brian Duensing and Mike Minor.

Addison Reed is out there if the Mets want to try a reunion. I will assume another champion Royal, Greg Holland, perhaps has too many red flags combined with cost to pursue. But Brandon Kintzler is intriguing. So is Juan Nicasio.

2. Find a mid-order bat

The most obvious place is at second and third base, but unlike with relievers, those are not fertile areas. So my thought is to bring back Jay Bruce. He would become the primary first baseman, but if Michael Conforto is not ready to start next year after shoulder surgery, then Bruce could play right.

If the Mets were rebuilding, then Dom Smith should get 500-plus at-bats next year. But I have not seen enough in his cameo to believe Smith should be the first baseman for a team trying to contend in 2018. If he shows that next year, then you could always go into some kind of rotation with Bruce moving between right and first and Conforto shifting to center.

3. But it is time to stick with Lagares in center

Juan LagaresAP

He is just too good on defense, and the Mets have been woeful in the field (they were last in the NL in turning batted balls in play into outs). The role models should be Toronto’s Kevin Pillar and Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier, whose defense kept them on the field and whose offense has slowly improved. Maybe Lagares will never learn to get the ball in the air enough. But if he does and becomes a 15-homer, 15-steal, .725 OPS, Gold Glove center fielder, that is a huge asset.

Against particularly tough righties, Conforto could start in center with Brandon Nimmo playing right and Lagares coming in late to defend if the Mets lead.

4. Find an innings eater

The Mets now have questions not only if their brittle rotation can stay healthy, but just how good the non-Jacob deGrom/Noah Syndergaard portion of the rotation is.

They likely are bringing back Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler, plus Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, too.

James Shields

There is enough uncertainty there that a quality horse — such as Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn (both free agents) — would be ideal. But with dollars a factor, the Mets are going to have to set their sights lower, to starters who have shown a propensity for taking the ball every five days year after year, and hoping to get league average or better out of a Wade Miley (likely to not have his 2018 option picked up by Baltimore) or Jeremy Hellickson or in trades for someone such as the White Sox’s James Shields, Kansas City’s Jason Hammel or Houston’s Mike Fiers.

In the case of trades, I believe all of those players would be more salary dumps and not cost any significant prospects and, in some cases, money might even be thrown in.

The Mets also could consider a swingman type such as Trevor Cahill, Jesse Chavez or Bud Norris, who could provide long relief or starting options. Again, remember that they will be shopping in the discount bin.

5. Fix second or third

Howie KendrickShutterstock

That begins with picking up Asdrubal Cabrera’s $8.5 million option (it is really a $6.5 million decision because there is a $2 million buyout) because he can play second or third, giving the Mets the wiggle room to try to make the best deal for one or the other.

I know Jose Reyes is the fans’ choice, but I believe at this stage Cabrera gives the Mets better coverage at second and third, and no less a valuable veteran voice in the clubhouse.

As for finding a second or third baseman, free agents such as Howie Kendrick and Eduardo Nunez give positional flexibility and some offensive punch.

The Cardinals are overloaded with position players and probably have to thin the herd and a pitcher such as Gsellman could be intriguing bait. Jedd Gyroko and particularly the athletic Kolten Wong are interesting.

Here is one I would look into: Zack Cozart is a free agent. He is a very good shortstop, but aside from the Padres and perhaps the Orioles, it is hard to see teams that will aggressively pursue a shortstop this offseason.

If the Mets believe Cozart can play second, then they would get a strong hitter (he had a .925 OPS outside of the offensive haven of Great American Ballpark), plus insurance in case Amed Rosario needed further minor league seasoning.



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