One by one this offseason, the best bats on the market have come off the board, snapped up by eager suitors in an era increasingly defined by sagging offense.
All the while, the best pitchers available have sat on the sideline, forced to wait their turn for paydays. For teams such as the Mets -- whose likely trade chips happen to be pitchers -- the slow-developing market for arms has contributed to the lag in activity.
"The interesting thing is, I don't think any of the top, the most highly rated pitching free agents have signed," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. "So it means that everybody is still out there on the market."
That could change beginning Sunday afternoon when rival executives descend upon San Diego for baseball's winter meetings, though on some fronts, the Mets likely will be forced to wait out the market.
For instance, in their efforts to upgrade at shortstop over Wilmer Flores, the options on the trade market have not compelled the Mets to get aggressive. And while free agents Jed Lowrie, Asdrubal Cabrera and Stephen Drew have yet to sign, the Mets are unlikely to get involved unless they can land one of them on a shorter, less-risky deal late in the offseason.
The same idea applies in their pursuit of righthanded hitters off the bench. Just like at shortstop, the Mets have fallback options in-house that allow them to wait.
But in other areas, the winter meetings could provide some clarity.
In Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee, the Mets boast pieces that could wind up in a deal. Although they likely won't be enough to bring back a shortstop, it's possible they will net a return to address other needs.
The Mets have fielded calls about all three veteran pitchers, sources said, though the talks have not progressed. That's not surprising. The market still is mostly undefined because Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields remain on the board.
That could be a response to a leaguewide dip in run-scoring and teams gravitating toward offense, a factor that might hurt teams with pitching to move, such as the Mets. Still, Alderson believes there eventually will be a demand for arms.
"I guess I would agree that there has been a run on position players, and we've been part of that," said Alderson, who kick-started the offseason by signing Michael Cuddyer at last month's general managers' meetings. "But at some point, people will turn to pitching, and then it's a question of who's available, who signs, who gets traded. At the end of the day, there's always somebody that needs more pitching, so I'm not too worried about that."
How the Mets fill their holes could hinge on what the market has to say about their trade chips, primarily their veteran pitchers, especially given that they've shown little willingness to move young arms such as Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler.
"There will be clubs looking," Alderson said. "Whether they'll be looking as desperately as they might have last year, I don't know. We'll have to see."
The winter meetings also could bring the Mets closer to landing a veteran lefthanded arm for the bullpen to pair with Josh Edgin, which Alderson called a priority because the Mets don't have any in-house alternatives.
"Not to say that will have the biggest impact on the team," Alderson said. "But just in terms of what options we have internally, that might be an area of greater need . . . There's not experience, proven depth, there."