Inbox: What's the best way to improve?

Inbox: What's the best way to improve?

If increasing the Mets' power is a top priority, is acquiring a big expensive bat -- Matt Holliday or Jason Bay -- the best way to do it? No doubt, the team needs a slugging percentage higher than the .394 it produced in 2009. But I'm wondering whether it wouldn't be wiser to prioritize defense (especially in Citi Field's spacious outfield) and pitching over power. If Jose Reyes, Luis Castillo, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Jeff Francoeur and Daniel Murphy are healthy, the offense doesn't look awful to me. Would adding a catcher, like Rod Barajas, and maybe Orlando Hudson at second improve the offense enough that the Mets could avoid compromising their defense by going after Bay or Holliday?

I'd also love your thoughts on grit. What players available via free agency or trade meet the Mets' needs while also providing the down-and-dirty desire to win?
-- Paul H., Missoula, Mont.

Good e-mail, Paul. My sense is that the Mets will pursue Holliday and/or Bay to a degree, but their bidding won't be over the top because neither slugger is precisely what they need. Neither player is an above-average defender, and the club believes it must upgrade its outfield defense. Moreover, though each has been a productive hitter in recent seasons, neither is among the premier sluggers in the game like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard and Adam Dunn.

What I was told shortly before the season ended was that the club was considering a piece-meal approach, bringing in a quality defensive outfielder with some power -- Mike Cameron, if he would agree to play left -- and a right-handed-hitting first baseman with power to share the position with Murphy. That wasn't necessarily the primary plan, but it was a possible plan. Because the club needs a starting pitcher, a reliever and a catcher, it can't apply all its resources to filling the need for power.

And if the Mets can deal Castillo and bring in Hudson, they will. Hudson might address the need you cited ... for a down-and-dirty player. He is energized, and he has wanted to play with the Mets.

Would the Mets consider filling in the hole in left field by trading for Carlos Lee? I know it's a long shot but I believe that he would be a perfect fit for Citi Field with his kind of power.
-- Felix N., Bronx, N.Y.

His power is a good fit. But his defense is lacking. He had trouble at Citi when the Astros played the season-ending series there.

When evaluating Holliday and Mark Teixeira, Holliday's power numbers are not comparable, nor is he as consistent a run producer. Teixeira is a perennial Gold Glove winner, and Holliday is a subpar fielder at the easiest position in the big leagues, depending on the stadium. Also, when looking at Holliday's statistics, he clearly is the beneficiary of two enhancing factors -- Coors Field, and batting along side Albert Pujols. Why is it that -- other than being a money-grubbing agent -- Scott Boras says Holliday deserves Teixeira money. He will scare off the Mets.
-- Jonathan G., Brooklyn, N.Y.

I considered Boras' comparison of the two players less than legit. But his job is to get the best contract for his client. And if some club wants to overpay Holliday in hopes that he will perform on a par with Teixeira, then good for Boras. I think the Mets see through his comparison.

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Why don't the Mets just trade for Pujols and Roy Halladay, and sign John Lackey? Just kidding. But I see a lot of questions like that posted here. I don't think the Mets should sign Holliday; he is good but not elite like the contract he is going to command. I think they should sign someone a little cheaper and hold out for a Carl Crawford-type player, because that is what the Mets claim to try to build their team around -- speed and defense. I also think they should go after Halladay if they can. If not, try to sign Lackey and one of the second-tier type guys like Jason Marquis, Joel Pineiro or Randy Wolf. What do you think?
-- Mike D., New Milford, N.J.

I think you have a most reasonable read on the situation. Reasonable, realistic and rare. Good for you. But I'm sure they could trade for Joe Mauer. If they would just part with Oliver Perez.

You said that, because Gary Carter declined appointment to the Mets' Double-A managing job in 2007 and that he made public comments that he was interested in managing the Mets while the position was filled, that the Mets' front office doesn't love him. Come on! If that's true, I don't know why I'm still a Mets fan. Wow! It's pure nonsense. I mean, when you think about the best manager for your team, the main thing the front office has to look at is the qualities of the guy, not character. I'm sure Carter would be better as a manager than Jerry Manuel.
-- Yannick C., Louiseville, Quebec, Canada

I suggest character is an issue. And I'm not sure the Mets were raising issues with Carter's character anyway. His declining of the club's offer of a promotion hardly was embraced. And many people, not only the Mets' hierarchy, were upset when he announced his availability for jobs that were occupied. It was considered a move born in selfishness.

I like Justin Maxwell. They should try to secure him to play in left. I think he is about to come into his own. What do you see with him and what would it take to get him?
-- Edward A., West Hempstead, N.Y.

My sense is that he is, at best, a No. 4 outfielder who, at 26, has yet to establish himself a big league worthy. He has some pop and plays the outfield well, but he hardly appears to be a difference maker.

After the 2008 season the Mets said Murphy might play second base in the he winter as an experiment. What happened to the idea of Murphy at second? He would be a better-than-average hitter for that position.
-- Sy. Y., New York, N.Y.

Murphy's performance as a second baseman is what prompted the Mets to keep him in the outfield in Spring Training.

When are the Mets going to go get a team leader, someone to light a fire under some butts and get them going? Also, they need Halladay. Get him, and they'll have that leader.
-- Jeff L., Spokane, Wash.

Team leaders usually develop, seldom are they imported. Exceptions exist. Darren Daulton moved to the Marlins in 1997 and changed the culture. Don Baylor ignited the Red Sox in 1986. Keith Hernandez became the leader and the most important player on the roster when the Mets acquired him in 1983. Pitchers rarely are team leaders if only because they aren't on the field as often as position players. The only pitchers who come to mind who emerged as team leaders are Tom Seaver with the Mets and Bob Gibson with the Cardinals in the 1960s.

Marty Noble is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.