If there's been a Murphy's Law team in baseball over the past few years, it seems like it'd be the Mets. If something could go wrong, either on the field or off, it would probably happen in Queens. The latest example: Matt Harvey bursting onto the scene, becoming one of the most hyped young starters since Stephen Strasburg, starting an All-Star Game, then tearing a ligament in his elbow. The Mets had eyes on possibly making a leap into contention in 2014. Now they'll have to decide this offseason if they're still going to make that push without Harvey, or if they'll delay plans for another year.
While the pitching was solid, the offense was one of the worst in baseball — if you go by OPS, only the Miami Marlins were worse than the Mets. The team's lack of slugging got worse once Marlon Byrd (the only Met to hit 20 home runs in 2013) and John Buck were traded to Pittsburgh. A complete offensive overhaul is needed, likely starting in the outfield. Most early rumors have the Mets looking at corner outfielders, with the team liking Juan Lagares' glove so much in center that they're willing to overlook his offensive shortcomings. With their first-round pick protected, they could chase any one of the big-name free agents without having to worry like they did last year during their pursuit of Michael Bourn.
The first base situation will also need clearing up — Lucas Duda cannot play the outfield, but Ike Davis is currently manning first. One of the two will likely need to be traded, assuming the Mets don't go shopping for other first base options. There's also shortstop, which continues to be a problem for the Mets in the post-Jose Reyes era. Ruben Tejada will likely enter next year as the team's shortstop if another move isn't made, and he's coming off a supremely disappointing season. Omar Quintanilla isn't an appealing option, either.
The Mets have been hinting that they'll be players in the free agent market this winter, finally able to open up the checkbook with previous bad deals expiring and the Wilpons recovering from the Bernie Madoff scheme. With a need in the outfield, the only player that they don't seem to be interested in is Jacoby Ellsbury, who is going to command more years than Sandy Alderson is willing to give. Shin-Soo Choo could make a lot of sense for the Mets, who desperately could use the OBP help. Curtis Granderson could make the crosstown move to Flushing, but he's another player whose market could quickly get out of hand. There's also Nelson Cruz, who would at least replace some of the pop they lost when they dealt Byrd and could come at a discount after his Biogenesis suspension.
At short, fellow Biogenesis-er Jhonny Peralta could make sense, and having played in the postseason, the Mets would at least have a better idea of what he could do post-ban than they would with Cruz. Stephen Drew is also a free agent, but the Red Sox did slap a qualifying offer on him. While the Mets' first round pick is protected this year, it's worth debating whether or not the 30-year-old Drew would be worth giving up a second round pick if the Mets aren't expected to seriously contend until 2015.
There's not really an R.A. Dickey for the Mets this winter — someone they could deal for a premium to help re-stock the farm system. With eyes set on the future, it seems unlikely the Mets would deal any of their prospects for a more established player, too. If the Mets are going to make a trade, it'll likely be to ship the disappointing Davis out of town to a team that thinks they can still fix him.
Daniel Murphy could also be an interesting trade chip, as there has been talk of the Mets wanting to move Eric Young, Jr. back to second base. Murphy is a solid-if-unspectacular middle infield bat that would likely struggle to keep that "middle infield" part on a better team. Murphy is arbitration-eligible and could end up making over $5 million in 2014, so moving him and sliding Young to second could help the Mets re-allocate some money towards free agent upgrades.
While free agents would require long-term commitments, going the trade route could allow Alderson to plug a few holes for the next year or two until better options come along. White Sox infielders Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham have been in trade rumors for months, with Ramirez in particular making sense for the Mets (although he's still due a substantial amount of money). New York talk radio will probably get a kick out of proposing trades for Elvis Andrus, but Alderson doesn't seem like the type to give in to what the Rangers would likely ask for in return. If the Mets want to make a push without Harvey in 2014, maybe they roll the dice and start dealing prospects. If they'd rather hold off and try to make a push in 2015 and beyond (this seems more likely), they'll keep their stockpile of young players and just hope for the best without doing much tinkering for next year.