Mets 'steak' their claim to new bullpen

DALLAS -- Agent Scott Boras offered this observation about the New York Mets, as well as the financially challenged big-market team on the other coast:

"The Mets and the Dodgers certainly are two franchises that are doing things, and they've dispatched their GMs to do things, that are certainly irregular," said Boras, who represents big-ticket clients such as Prince Fielder. "Normally, they're in the steaks sections, and I found them in the fruits and nuts category a lot.

"We kind of anticipated this going in, so I don't think it's a surprise that there's going to be an adjustment period for them. But both franchises have great platforms, great positions. They can be very, very successful very quickly again."

Despite a tight budget and the painful departure of Jose Reyes to the Miami Marlins for six years, $106 million, the Mets nonetheless left the winter meetings having shored up the bullpen, their most glaring hole.

Sure, soon-to-be-officially-signed Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch both pitched for a Toronto Blue Jays bullpen that tied for the American League lead in blown saves last season with 25. But combine them with fellow right-hander Ramon Ramirez -- who was acquired from the San Francisco Giants with center fielder Andres Torres for Angel Pagan -- and the Mets now have their final three innings covered.

"I feel a lot better about the bullpen," general manager Sandy Alderson said shortly before departing the meetings. "In terms of quality and quantity, we feel we're in much better position."

Torres assumes the leadoff role that was otherwise begrudgingly slated to be turned over to Pagan.

The rest of the projected lineup: Daniel Murphy batting second and playing second base, followed by third baseman David Wright, first baseman Ike Davis, left fielder Jason Bay, right fielder Lucas Duda, catcher Josh Thole and shortstop Ruben Tejada.

Alderson suggested early in the meetings that the Mets had about $10 million to $15 million to spend this winter on external additions. He committed nearly $10 million to Francisco and Rauch, seemingly leaving no more than $5 million and change remaining.

The Mets only have Mike Baxter and Adam Loewen under their control as backup outfielders, so it stands to reason that they still will make two external signings for the Willie Harris and Scott Hairston roles. The Mets also need a bona fide backup shortstop with Tejada becoming the starter. And with left-hander Chris Capuano having departed as a free agent for the Dodgers, the Mets desperately need a safety net for a rotation that really has nothing behind Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee.

Santana is no sure thing. He hit 90 mph in a few minor league rehab appearances late in the season as he reached the one-year mark from shoulder surgery. But in his final couple of starts he was only registering 86-88 mph.

Alderson said the Mets are further along this winter than last winter, and that the remaining holes can wait until later this month or January. A new crop of players becomes available Monday at the non-tender deadline, when teams decide to cut loose some players eligible for arbitration, as the Mets must consider doing with catcher Ronny Paulino.

The Mets spoke with teams about trades involving left-hander Niese and reliever Bobby Parnell, but Alderson said nothing was close to materializing.

"I wouldn't say we were close to anything," Alderson said. "What we do going forward is try to continue to balance the short term with the long term. We might make more than one trade. One might be focused on long term. One might be focused on short term. We're not conceding 2012. And it's very possible we won't make another trade."

As for the trade with the Giants that landed Torres and Ramirez, Alderson said: "From our standpoint, we were very pleased we were able to pick up a center fielder to replace Angel, somebody that is strong defensively and has some upside offensive potential based on past performance, most recently in 2010. He may give us some speed at the top of the lineup, but definitely play some solid defense for us in center field.

"And then, secondarily, we were able to pick up another arm in the bullpen [Ramirez], somebody who had solid numbers last year, who we're very happy to have, who will add some depth to pitch in the seventh, maybe in the eighth inning."