Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen helped kick off the MLB Winter Meetings on Monday, meeting with members of the media in San Diego.
Van Wagenen was asked about the team's priorities at this point in the preseason, how the team's rotation may look without Zack Wheeler, and much more. Here are five takeaways from Van Wagenen's media availability:
On Jake Marisnick
The Mets have already made one notable move this offseason, acquiring outfielder Jake Marisnick from the Houston Astros.
Van Wagenen wouldn't lock in Marisnick as the team's everyday starting center fielder, but he said the outfielder gives the Mets a lot of options moving forward.
"I think we'll always keep our minds open, but I think the first priority of the offseason was to get better defensively in the outfield, particularly center field," said Van Wagenen. "I think Jake gives us that chance to do it, and from there it puts us in a position of strength as we explore other things.
"Center field, left field, right field, he's a plus defender in all three. We think he's an elite athlete, runs the bases well, and will be playing a lot, certainly in center field and more against left-handed pitching and be a nice complement to the rest of our guys out there. … We've got probably a surplus of outfielders, but you can never have too much depth and I think he gives us somebody that can play every day but also gives us protection around some other positions."
On Yoenis Cespedes
Van Wagenen talked about how the Mets currently have a surplus of outfielders, and perhaps the most intriguing piece of that puzzle is Yoenis Cespedes.
The veteran outfielder missed the entire 2019 season, and though video surfaced recently of him hitting, Cespedes is still far from a sure thing for the Mets as they move forward.
"He's resumed baseball activities," Van Wagenen confirmed. "He's been swinging the bat now for several weeks, and we're hoping that he can continue his progression and hopefully make progress as we head to spring training. …He's began running as well.
"He started his running progression. He started his throwing and obviously his hitting, and hopefully he can continue to move forward.
"We have to be smart and not assume anything from anyone, and try to create talent on our roster and try to create impact. If he's at his best, he's a high-impact performer. We'll have to see how that plays out."
On the Mets' priorities at the Winter Meetings
So what comes next for the Mets?
Van Wagenen said that the team's focus right now is building pitching depth, both in the starting rotation and in the bullpen as well.
"I think the priorities, still, are to gain some starting pitching depth, create some bullpen depth as we've talked about before, in terms of whether (Seth) Lugo and (Robert) Gsellman become that starting pitching depth," he said. "If they do, then we need to create some coverage in the bullpen or vice versa, and then we still may look for some other supplemental depth pieces, whether it's behind the plate or in the infield, but I'd say those are probably our primary focuses right now.
"We'd love to have guys that can go out and take the ball every fifth day, pitch deep into the games, and have elite performance. That's kind of what we're looking for. Now whether or not we can find that in the marketplace as a fifth starter, we'll obviously have to see how that plays out."
On Zack Wheeler
The main reason that the Mets are in need of starting pitching depth is the departure of Zack Wheeler, whose five-year $118 million deal with the Phillies became official on Monday morning.
According to Van Wagenen, the Mets kept communication with Wheeler open, but eventually it became apparent that they were not going to be bale to match his price point.
"It was very much a realistic consideration, said Van Wagenen. "I think the value for what we thought the investment [was] didn't line up. The projections that we had for Zack, both short term and long term, didn't quite matchup to the market that he was able to enjoy.
"We maintained dialogue with Zack's agent up until the last week. I think that both sides had expressed interest in potentially finding a way to have a reunion, but I think over the course of the last six weeks it started to become more clear that the price point was going to go beyond how we valued him."
On the team's offseason starting in July
While starting pitching depth is still a need for the Mets, Van Wagenen reiterated the point that the team started their offseason back in July by trading for Marcus Stroman.
Van Wagenen explained that the team had a good idea that starting pitching would be hard to come by during this offseason, which made bringing in Stroman even more important.
"I think that part of our offseason strategy started in July. We traded for Marcus Stroman recognizing that starting pitching was going to be expensive and difficult to acquire, so that was a little kick-starting that," said Van Wagenen. "I think in some ways we got out in front of all of this a little bit earlier. I think the way that our starting pitching was assembled, we had a little bit more of a solid foundation than some of the other teams around the league, and we felt good about that, but we have to compete.
"We have to find ways to improve our roster, and whether that's in incremental moves or that's in larger. More high-impact moves, we've got to continue to be as aggressive as we can because teams aren't getting worse around us."