MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Active offseason grows Mets' optimism

Active offseason grows Mets' optimism

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The New York Mets have had themselves a fine few days. Sure, it begins with making the baseball team better on the field. Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon do that on a couple of levels. Both are productive players and consummate professionals.

Also significant is that their signings is a message to Mets fans that their team is aggressively attempting to improve, and that the first phase of the rebuilding project could be nearing an end.

"We think we made our club better," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. "If we made a statement at the same time, so be it. I don't think that was our intent. Our intent was to improve the team."

Granderson averaged 36 home runs, 20 doubles, seven triples, 71 walks, 97 RBIs and 105 runs scored in the three seasons before he got hurt last spring. If he puts those numbers on the board during his four seasons with the Mets, Alderson will be a happy man. Granderson also will be a positive presence in the clubhouse, because his happy, outgoing nature plays well over a long season.

With the earlier signing of Chris Young, Alderson has now remade his outfield. If there are no other changes, the Mets will open the season with Granderson and Young at the corner spots and 24-year-old Juan Lagares in center.

As for Colon, every Mets pitcher can learn plenty by studying his poise and preparation and mound presence. He's coming off a season in which he threw 190 innings and had a dazzling 2.65 ERA for the A's.

Good teams remind us every year that clubhouse environments are impacted by an assortment of things. The Yankees and A's would tell you that Granderson and Colon contributed in ways numbers can't capture.

"When you add veteran players, you hope they have a positive influence on everyone else," Alderson said.

In the end, though, it's about the baseball team.

"We feel a lot better about our team than we did two weeks ago," Alderson said. "The winter is not over. This is a constant reassessment."

Asked about contending in 2014, he had a simple answer.

"That's our attitude. That's our bigger goal for this season."

Alderson's next priority is to upgrade a bullpen that was 12th in the National League in ERA last season. He'll also figure out if Ike Davis will be his first baseman in 2014, and if there are available options to improve the club in other areas.

Regardless, after five straight losing seasons, the Mets believe things could change in a big way in 2014. Matt Harvey's elbow injury has tempered some of the optimism, but if 21-year-old right-hander Noah Syndergaard follows 23-year-old righty Zack Wheeler to the big leagues, the Mets could be on their way to building something special.

For now, manager Terry Collins will pencil in third baseman David Wright in the lineup's No. 3 spot and put Granderson behind him. That's a pretty good start toward improvement.

"[Opponents] have to make a decision," Collins said. "They're going to go after David Wright or Curtis Granderson with guys on base. So David's patient enough to take the base on balls, especially if he knows the guy can bat behind him. He'll get better pitches to hit each at-bat. And if David gets pitches to hit, he does damage."

Maybe the Mets won't roll past the Nationals and Braves in the NL East, but there's certainly a feeling that good times are ahead.

Collins also is interested in getting to Spring Training and seeing how the personalities blend and how the Mets shape up, both in talent and attitude. To say he's optimistic is an understatement.

"You saw it this year in Boston," he said. "Those guys they went out and got, they all played good. I think that's important. That is certainly the message we're going to send out in Spring Training. We have the talent. We've just got to play up to our talent."

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.