The Winter Meetings have come and gone, and while the Mets accomplished a few odds and ends during their time in San Diego, their most significant work involved agenda items they have yet to complete. Trading a starting pitcher remains their top priority. Acquiring a shortstop could consume them for the rest of the winter.
The result of all that uncertainty is a whole lot of questions:
Why is Dillon Gee the guy the Mets want to trade? He has been great for them when healthy.
-- Jack R., Queens, N.Y.
First, a disclaimer: Just because the Mets prefer trading Gee over Jon Niese or Bartolo Colon doesn't mean they actually will. If it becomes clear that general manager Sandy Alderson can extract significantly more value out of Niese, who has a longer track record of success and twice the amount of team control left on his contract, then the Mets will certainly go in that direction.
But all things being equal, the Mets prefer trading Gee over Niese for several reasons. To start, they consider Niese the superior pitcher, making him the better option to aid their quest for a playoff berth; the Mets view a rotation of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Colon and Niese as superior to any combination including Gee. And all things once again being equal, the Mets would prefer to have a left-hander in their rotation, even if manager Terry Collins does not put too much stock in that.
As for Colon, the Mets simply don't believe they can receive much value for a soon-to-be-42-year-old with a lengthy injury history and recent performance-enhancing drug suspension, all for the price of $11 million. They feel Colon has the potential to be far more valuable than anything they might receive in return.
Wilmer Flores looked much better at the end of last year. Do you think that he could hit .270-.280, with 15 home runs and 70-80 RBIs (depending where he bats in the order)? If so, what options are there really for a trade?
-- Ron G., Killingworth, Conn.
You've hit upon the exact reason why Mets officials insist it's not bluster when Alderson says he's fine with Flores as the Opening Day shortstop. While the statistics you mentioned would be ambitious for the vast majority of Major League shortstops, Flores boasts enough upside to make them at least plausible. That's more than many free-agent or trade targets can say, and Flores costs the Mets nothing more than the Major League minimum salary.
There is, of course, a strong argument that the Mets would be better off handing the job to an elite defensive shortstop and trying to win with pitching, particularly with a below-average defender already entrenched on the other side of the second-base bag. But the Mets have insisted they are not thinking that way.
Flores may ultimately flop. I know it. You know it. The Mets know it. But the upside is real, and to his credit, he has already spent much of this offseason working with new strength and conditioning guru Mike Barwis and his staff in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Mets officials have taken notice, particularly after Flores spent last winter with Barwis in Michigan and showed up to camp noticeably leaner and stronger. There are far worse gambles than betting on Flores' upside.
Would it make sense for the Mets to go to a six-man rotation for the whole year, since they have several pitchers coming back from arm injuries?
-- Willie B., New York
Yes, in a vacuum. But pitchers are creatures of habit, and the Mets are wary of disrupting their pitchers' usual schedules by having them go once every six games. The Mets have explored this several times in recent years, even temporarily using six-man rotations. It's never lasted long. As much as a six-man staff makes sense on a theoretical level, particularly with Harvey up against an innings limit, it just doesn't work in practice.
Why don't the Mets consider Matt Reynolds a viable option at shortstop to start the season? His defensive play in the Arizona Fall League showed scouts he can more than hold the position defensively, and he rakes offensively, as shown by his 2014 batting average.
-- Robert K., Glen Cove, N.Y.
The Mets love Reynolds, yes. But many scouts remain skeptical of his defensive chops, and a few dozen good innings in Arizona were not about to change that. When asked about Reynolds at the Winter Meetings, Alderson also cautioned that he has been in the Mets' system for three full seasons, but has only one good year to show for it.
None of that is a knock on Reynolds; at this time next year, he could very well be entrenched as the starter in New York. The team just isn't ready to go there yet.
I keep hearing the Mets are looking for another lefty reliever, such as Craig Breslow, to go along with Josh Edgin. Why aren't the Mets thinking of promoting Jack Leathersich or Dario Alvarez? And is it because of injuries that the Mets aren't looking at either Scott Rice or Dana Eveland?
-- Ray B., Kings Park, N.Y.
Simply put, the Mets believe that both Leathersich and Alvarez are not yet ready for that responsibility, with Leathersich's control -- he walked 4.6 batters per nine innings last season -- of particular concern. Alvarez may be the more polished pitcher, but he boasts a career total of seven innings above Class A ball, and has enjoyed much of his success against younger competition.
You may have noticed that shortly after you sent this question, the Mets inked Rice to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training. They may ultimately do the same with Eveland. And while it is possible that they sign a prominent lefty such as Breslow to a Major League contract, the Mets are just as likely to populate their camp with a host of lesser names who can battle it out this spring.
The Mets added a candidate to the mix when they selected left-hander Sean Gilmartin from the Twins in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft.
While I'm pleased with Michael Cuddyer coming on board, the lineup, especially the top, concerns me. Who's going to bat leadoff? Juan Lagares would make sense since he cut down his strikeouts, but his on-base percentage is still on the low side. I really like Daniel Murphy batting second. Does David Wright drop down until he hits better? I can see Cuddyer third, Lucas Duda fourth and Wright fifth.
-- Howard M., Somerset, N.J.
The Mets plan to work tirelessly with Lagares this spring on improving his on-base skills, knowing he fits better at leadoff than anyone. If he manages to perform even adequately in that role, the Mets can simply swap lefties and righties until the bottom of the lineup, stacking Murphy next to Wright, Duda, Cuddyer, Curtis Granderson, Travis d'Arnaud and Flores (or his replacement).
The Mets fully expect Wright to be Wright heading into the season. As such, he will bat third. The only thing that could change that lineup would be if the Mets acquire a bona fide leadoff hitter to replace Flores (unlikely), in which case Lagares and the new shortstop would simply flip spots.
What Mets joined offseason fitness programs this year?
-- Brock C., Patchogue, N.Y.
The Mets made their fitness camp easier to attend this year, hiring the aforementioned Barwis and flying him to Florida. Flores has already worked there extensively this offseason, alongside Duda (who recently moved full time to Port St. Lucie), Bobby Parnell, Niese and others. Wright typically reports to Florida right around the Super Bowl, with the majority of Mets players arriving soon after.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.