Mets to pass on major free agent signings this winter

“A person with knowledge of the team’s thinking” told Marc Carig of Newsday that due to the limited budget Sandy Alderson and the Mets have this winter, the Mets will follow last winter’s plan to pass on major free agent signings and spread their limited funds across several low cost signings.

Carig says the Mets could make acquisitions through trades this winter, but if they do not go down that route, they will have to “rummage for bargains” on the free agent market.

According to Carig, the Mets will seek a catcher to work in tandem with Josh Thole and would like to add power to the outfield. But they could also seek to acquire depth for the rotation in the event of an injury as well as to prevent from rushing pitchers up from the Minor Leagues.

Carig suggests the Mets could look to acquire free-agent OF Melky Cabrera on a one-year deal as he looks to re-establish his value after being suspended 50 games for a PED violation this past season.

Late in the season, Sandy Alderson told a group of season ticket holders at Citi Field the budget for 2013 will be around $100 million, “if not higher.”

However, the Mets already owe $80.5 million to David Wright, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Jason Bay, Johan Santana and Frank Francisco. In addition, according to MLB Trade Rumors, the Mets could potentially owe another $9.6 million to four more players through arbitration, raising their commitments to $90.1 million to ten players.

Michael Baron, Contributor

I don’t think any of this is surprising – it more or less reinforces what we already know will transpire this winter. Alderson made it clear at the end of the season it was unrealistic to expect the Mets to pursue major free agents this winter. But he also has indicated power is important, and catching is an area which he expects to change for next season. He also said they’re not working with “unlimited funds” for the foreseeable future, meaning he will have to take gambles and be creative with improving the roster. But again, this is no surprise.

As far as starting pitching depth is concerned, I agree with Carig in that the Mets need to get deeper behind their front five, especially if they choose to deal a starting pitcher for a position player. Jeremy Hefner proved to be a decent enough spot starter/long reliever in 2012, but Collin McHugh still has work to do in order to become an effective big league pitcher, and while Zack Wheeler appears close, a) there are no guarantees he will be ready when they need him, and b) it would be a bad idea to rush him to the big leagues to fill a need if he isn’t ready.

This is where Mike Pelfrey could fit. Pelfrey will reportedly not be tendered a contract this winter, but he could likely be had on an incentive-laden, one-year deal as he tries to build value. He is coming off Tommy John Surgery and probably won’t be ready until at least May 1,  but the Mets will have some clue as to what Johan Santana will be able to provide and where the rest of the rotation stands by the time Pelfrey is ready to contribute, whether it’s in the rotation or in another role. It’s not to say bringing Pelfrey back is a slam dunk. Scott Boras is his agent, and he will shop Pelfrey around in an effort to get as strong a Major League deal as he can. But as unpopular as Pelfrey has been with the fans over the years, there’s a fit from both a player and team perspective. However, this isn’t a popularity contest – it’s about having the depth necessary to get through a 162 game season. They need to be able to maneuver through injury, fatigue, rainouts, or all three combined, and they have struggled to do so recently due to that lack of depth.