NEW YORK -- For the first time this offseason, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson does not sound confident that he will trade a starting pitcher before Spring Training.
"Right now, we feel very good about the fact that we're eight or nine deep going into the season," Alderson said Monday on MLB Network's "High Heat" program, less than three weeks before the reporting date for pitchers and catchers. "You always need extra starting pitching. Things will probably work themselves out during Spring Training. Hopefully we don't have an injury. But we do have some flexibility in the 'pen, so if somebody has to move to the 'pen for a period of time, I think that would be acceptable to us."
Since November, Alderson has indicated that he would prefer to trade one of his excess starters, with Dillon Gee quickly emerging as the most likely candidate. But teams not still waiting on free agent James Shields have largely already filled their rotation needs, meaning the Mets are facing the real possibility of heading into Spring Training with Gee, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon all populating the same rotation -- to say nothing of prospects Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero and Steven Matz, who are all big league-ready or close to it.
In Alderson's words, it is now conceivable that one of those six -- Gee still being the most likely -- could end up in the bullpen come April 6.
For the Mets, it is a decent problem to have. In the thick of an improved division featuring the Nationals and Marlins, the Mets need to distinguish themselves in some way. Though they do not boast as strong of a rotation as the Nats or as much improvement potential as the Marlins, they do possess significant starting-pitching depth -- eight or nine deep on the depth chart, as Alderson indicated. That could give them an advantage in today's game, which sees most teams run through a dozen or more starters over the course of each season.
The Mets' goal is to win roughly a dozen games more than last year, putting them squarely in the playoff conversation.
"We won 79 games last year, which was an improvement over the year before," Alderson said. "But we need to take a bigger jump next season. One of the reasons we've been quiet in the offseason is that we have quality players at every position. They're not all proven above-average Major League players, but we're at the point now where we have to give them an opportunity to perform.
"We're comfortable going into Spring Training -- and excited, actually, to see those players and see what kind of steps forward they take, and whether that can translate into 10 or 12 games for us in the win column."
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.