Mets set to turn attention to free agency

Mets set to turn attention to free agency

NEW YORK -- Before last offseason was even a month old, the Mets re-signed Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year contract, effectively re-creating the team they had in 2016. Then they did little else over the course of the winter, leaving a roster without enough depth to endure the onslaught of injuries that followed.

That won't be the case this year. It can't be, now that Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, Lucas Duda and Addison Reed are all gone. The Mets need to acquire a wave of players to replace their traded veterans, meaning they have no choice but to dip heavily into the free-agent and trade markets this offseason.

Hot Stove Tracker

Here's a look at how they might act:

Free agents: INF Jose Reyes

Arbitration-eligible: C Travis d'Arnaud, INF Wilmer Flores, RHP Jacob deGrom, RHP Jeurys Familia, RHP Matt Harvey, RHP AJ Ramos, RHP Hansel Robles, RHP Noah Syndergaard, RHP Zack Wheeler

Biggest potential free-agent loss
After picking up the contract options of Asdrubal Cabrera and Jerry Blevins, the Mets only have one pending free agent in Reyes. He badly wants to return; if the Mets lose him, it will be because they don't show any interest.

That's not to say it wouldn't be a loss. The Mets love the way Reyes mentored rookie shortstop Amed Rosario this season, and they consider him a clubhouse leader. If Reyes does not return, someone will have to assume those roles in his stead.

Potential free-agent targets
Considering their needs in the infield, outfield, rotation and bullpen, the Mets will consider a significant number of players available on the open market. In the infield, third baseman Mike Moustakas is probably a pipe dream given his potential nine-figure price tag. Walker, Todd Frazier or Eduardo Nunez may make more sense. In the outfield, Michael Conforto's flexibility gives the Mets the freedom to pursue either a center fielder (Lorenzo Cain?) or corner outfielder (Bruce?) -- though Conforto's health is no sure thing.

The Mets won't pursue any frontline starters to fill their rotation vacancy; Lance Lynn probably represents the top of their potential market. But an older pitcher such as Jason Vargas, who could potentially be had on a one-year deal, seems most likely. And in the bullpen? Take your pick. General manager Sandy Alderson values year-to-year flexibility, but if there were ever a time for him to dish out a two- or three-year deal to a reliever, this is it.

Wild card scenario
The last time the Mets had a significant infield need, they traded Jon Niese for Walker, who spent nearly two full seasons with the team. Rather than acquire a free agent, they could seek to trade for a veteran, such as the Twins' Brian Dozier or -- less realistically, given how much money would be involved -- the Marlins' Dee Gordon.

The problem is the Mets are already lacking in pitching depth, and their farm system is thin at the upper levels. It would be difficult for them to pull off a similar trade without investing even more heavily in free agency to replace the parts they dealt away.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.