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The Mets’ top baseball executives have arrived in Florida, many of them quarantining in preparation for pitchers and catchers to show up and launch what figures to be an unwelcomely unique campaign.
This does not, however, connote the end of the Mets’ Hot Stove League participation.
“No, we’re not done,” Zack Scott, the Mets’ acting general manager, said Friday during a Zoom news conference. “We want to do some other things. Will everything align and those things happen? Maybe, maybe not.
“I told [Mets president] Sandy [Alderson] that I’m happy with the team as is, but if we’ll make improvements, we’ll make improvements. We’re definitely not done trying to make improvements to the team.”
Accordingly, the Mets remain in touch with lefty reliever Justin Wilson, an industry source said. Wilson, 33, enjoyed pitching for the Mets the past two seasons and is interested in returning. He could make his decision this weekend.
The Mets face obvious depth issues in their starting rotation, with a handful of intriguing free agents, such as Jake Odorizzi, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker, still unsigned. Scott acknowledged team defense has not been a recent strength, which explains the Mets’ serious pursuit of free-agent center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (who is waiting for better offers to emerge).
Then, there’s third base, which has generated a blizzard of speculation.
“We really like J.D. Davis,” Scott said of the current front-runner at third. “He’s someone that can really hit, and obviously we can have him under control for a while. He’s a really valuable player to our organization. So … I know there’s been a lot of rumors out there. We’re going to always look for ways to improve the team in any way we can. But we’re fully comfortable going into the season with J.D. Davis playing an important role on our club.”
In his first formal media appearance since Alderson promoted him in the wake of Jared Porter’s firing, Scott touched on a number of team issues, among them:
• The team has not yet engaged with walk-year All-Stars Michael Conforto and Francisco Lindor about potential extensions.
“I’ve always looked at those, the best time to do that is in spring training, and I think we’ll have those conversations,” Scott said. “We’ve had conversations internally [about extensions]. … That’s an important thing for us to at least talk to players about the potential for those types of deals.”
Lindor likely would require an extension over $300 million, and Conforto well over $100 million, to bypass free agency, and both have stated they’d prefer not to negotiate during the regular season. Said Scott: “There should be plenty of time to talk through this before the season starts to figure out if there’s something to be done or not.”
• The club still hopes to have Noah Syndergaard, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, back by June.
• The uncertainty over the National League adding the designated hitter this season won’t stop the Mets from making another sizable commitment to a position player despite potential clogging.
“I think we have a lot of flexibility here,” Scott said.
• New outfield coach Tony Tarasco will play a significant role in improving the club’s outfield defense, with center fielder (for now) Brandon Nimmo and left fielder (for now) Dom Smith both important cogs.
• This past week’s acquisition of Khalil Lee from the Royals, in a three-team trade that sent outfielder Andrew Benintendi from Boston to Kansas City, occurred as a byproduct of Scott’s relationship with his former co-workers.
“We didn’t have direct conversations with Kansas City on that,” he said. “With my connections to Boston, quite frankly, they know that I liked Khalil Lee. They reached out and asked if there would be interest here. We were excited. Our pro scouts here really liked the player. A lot of tools and athleticism. We liked a lot of things about his performance as well.”
• Scott saved his best tap-dancing for a pair of polarizing players, Trevor Bauer and Tim Tebow. Asked whether Tebow, the Mets’ oft-injured, perpetually famous minor league outfielder, would be invited to big league camp, as he has been the past three years, Scott said, “We’re still kind of finalizing these things, so I’m hesitant to discuss any specific players.” Major League Baseball is limiting teams to a maximum of 75 players in big league camp, for health and safety reasons.
As for the controversial Bauer, whom the Mets offered $105 million over three years, before he signed with the Dodgers for $3 million less, Scott was asked how seriously the Mets contemplated the pitcher’s history of social-media bullying.
“I’m hesitant to talk about a player who just signed with another club, but I’ll speak more generally: Those things are important to talk through whenever you’re signing a free agent,” Scott said. “It’s not even so much about the investment of dollars in a person. You set that aside. You just want to know what kind of person you’re bringing into the organization, so you do have to do a lot of vetting of that. You have to in some cases talk directly with the player about some things and ask good questions and see how they handle those things. I think that’s a process that we do with anybody.”
• Finally, Scott shed some light on his unusual path to his current post: He interviewed for the Mets’ GM opening, finished second to Porter, joined the Mets anyway in December as assistant GM and then ascended when the Mets learned of Porter’s 2016 harassment of a female journalist.
“It’s certainly had its ups and downs,” Scott said. “Not getting [the GM job] was a disappointment, but I was still very excited to join the organization. … One of the reasons I joined the Mets is, obviously, I had a long professional relationship with Jared [from working together at the Red Sox]. He’s a good friend of mine. It’s unfortunate what happened there. … I’m here to step up and do whatever it takes to help the organization. I have a slightly different role now.”
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