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Mets face a different situation this time around

New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson announces

New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson announces a two-year contract extension for Mets manager Terry Collins during a press conference at Citi Field on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

BOCA RATON, Fla. - A year ago, the Mets struck early in the offseason, signing outfielder Michael Cuddyer at the annual general managers' meetings. But this year, they might not be working with the same kind of urgency.

"We're in a little bit of a different place team-wise than where we were last year, not only because how we finished but because of how some guys developed," assistant general manager John Ricco said on Monday. "Our holes aren't, I don't think, as glaring as they were."

Last season, the Mets had a clear need at a corner outfield spot, prompting GM Sandy Alderson to pounce on Cuddyer. But as this offseason begins, it appears that the Mets will work methodically through their options to improve upon a pennant-winning team that likely will lose second baseman Daniel Murphy and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes in free agency.

The challenge will rest in bolstering a lineup that is relatively set all around the diamond.

The Mets boast a young rotation headed by Matt Harvey that already has attracted the attention of rival teams, who have gauged the Mets' willingness to move one of them in a trade. For now, any movement on that front seems unlikely.

"Our guys are kind of a hot commodity right now, so I would expect we'll have conversations," Ricco said. "As to whether we do anything, I don't think we're far enough along yet to know what the overall plans are."

The Mets could use a lefthanded-hitting centerfielder capable of serving as a platoon partner for Juan Lagares. Denard Span, Gerardo Parra and Dexter Fowler appear to be among their early free-agent targets.

The Mets also will seek a versatile infielder who can serve as an insurance policy for David Wright as he continues to manage the spinal stenosis condition that sidelined him for much of last season.

Acquiring a setup man to increase their depth in the bullpen also appears to be a priority. They appear primed to stick with Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada at shortstop.

"We got to the World Series with them, and Wilmer and Ruben were a big part of what we did," Ricco said. "Again, you're always looking to get better . . . but I would not characterize it as a hole."

Alderson will remain in New York this week to undergo an unspecified medical procedure. In his absence, Ricco, Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi will handle the Mets' dealings. This week, much of their work will be centered on checking in with agents. Said Ricco: "A lot of it is just touching base and seeing who they have and what they're thinking."

The Mets have been in touch with Cespedes' representatives and Murphy's agents. Murphy has until Friday to decide whether to accept the Mets' one-year, $15.8-million qualifying offer.

It's unlikely that Murphy will take the offer because he's expected to attract lucrative multiyear deals on the open market. No player accepted a qualifying offer in the first three years the system was in place. But if Murphy becomes the first, Ricco said he fills a need.

"In making the qualifying offer, you always have to anticipate he's going to accept, so we're comfortable with where it's going to leave us both organizationally and within the baseball department," Ricco said. "Otherwise, I don't think we would have done it."

Notes & quotes: Cuddyer dealt with a core issue that required surgery after the season . . . Doctors did not recommend surgery for Lagares, whose throwing was diminished because of a ligament issue. Instead, the Mets will explore different ways to strengthen his arm in spring training. This past year, they curbed Lagares' throwing, though his condition did not improve . . . The Mets have had discussions with Major League Baseball regarding Chase Utley's takeout slide that left Tejada with a broken leg. MLB has been looking into a rule change to limit collisions at second base . . . With the Mets exploring options in centerfield, Ricco said Curtis Granderson likely will remain a fixture in right. Granderson played the bulk of his career in center before signing with the Mets before the 2014 season.

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