NEW YORK -- The Mets have already been more active this offseason than they were all last winter, signing outfielder Chris Young to a $7.25 million deal while keeping tabs on the markets for shortstops, pitchers and other outfielders.
So when general manager Sandy Alderson and his colleagues descend upon the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort next week for the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., they will do so with an aggressive agenda.
"This is a process of improving the team," Alderson said after signing Young last week. "It's not about improving a position."
That means the Mets will try to be both creative and flexible when they sit down with agents and other clubs. Still interested in acquiring a shortstop to supplant Ruben Tejada, an outfielder to complement Young, at least one starting pitcher to fill out their rotation and at least one veteran reliever, the Mets know they may not be able to fill all those holes.
What they will try to do instead is find a way to make as many of those jigsaw puzzle pieces fit together as possible.
"I know that the team is the sum of its parts, but that's not to say we will be able to or we will be best served by addressing every single position," Alderson said. "You have to take into account the marketplace and the reality of what the contracts are telling you."
For Alderson, that means proceeding with less purchasing power than he envisioned at the end of October. Already, the free-agent market's sky-high prices have surprised him, most notably when shortstop Jhonny Peralta signed a four-year, $52 million contract with the Cardinals. That forced the Mets to start "readjusting our strategy," in the GM's words, to "accommodate what we're seeing."
The result: Though the Mets still have money available to spend if they plan to increase payroll, as Alderson recently suggested that they would, they may not have enough free cash to fill all their vacancies through free agency. Rather than acquire a mid-level shortstop and a platoon outfielder, for example, the Mets might instead set their sights on a higher-tier outfielder and forget about improving the infield altogether.
"What we're trying to do is improve the team as a whole," Alderson said. "And so while shortstop is an obvious place for improvement, it's not the only one. If we're successful elsewhere -- as many clubs do, they get by on their strengths and hope to be as adequate as possible in those areas where they're weaker."
That is the mind-set defining the Mets as they prepare to descend upon Disney, where the Winter Meetings will hold their usual promise of rapid improvement. Given that all 30 GMs and scores of high-profile agents will spend their days in the same hotel, daily opportunities to do business exist. The meetings can be particularly fruitful for teams looking to make trades, given the rare chance to meet face to face with rival GMs. Often, even if trades are not completed at the Winter Meetings, key dialogue for them begins there.
Alderson's dialogue with other clubs should revolve around his first basemen, Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, one of whom will likely be gone by Opening Day. The Mets also boast plenty of blue-chip pitching throughout their organization, and they could deal some of it for the power bat that they desire.
On the pitching front, Alderson will meet with agents in an attempt to fill the void that Matt Harvey's injury created. And he will keep tabs on the relief-pitching market, searching for a veteran presence at the back end of his bullpen.
What's clear is that the Alderson is looking to do something -- ideally, multiple somethings -- to change his roster composition in the coming weeks. The Winter Meetings will provide an ideal platform for him to work toward that goal.
"I can't tell you what would be optimal," Alderson said, "but we're still looking for ways to improve the team."