Mets making strides as winter meetings come to a close

After acquiring 2B Neil Walker in a trade, the Mets will concentrate on adding a reliever, outfielder and starting pitcher. Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The New York Mets came up short in their pursuit of Ben Zobrist, but departed the winter meetings feeling good about their revamped infield anyway.

The Amazin’s rebounded by acquiring second baseman Neil Walker from the Pittsburgh Pirates for left-hander Jonathon Niese. They then signed shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to a two-year deal that includes an option for 2018. That deal will not become official until Friday at the earliest, after the medical process is completed.

General manager Sandy Alderson, who remained in New York while undergoing chemotherapy, closed the trade for Walker by telephone with Pittsburgh counterpart Neal Huntington.

“We were pretty honest about the fact that we thought we could operate as normal with Sandy back in New York, and I think we were able to do that,” assistant general manager John Ricco said.

The Mets have been candid in identifying their three remaining needs. They are looking for a lefty-hitting complement to Juan Lagares in center field, a veteran late-inning reliever, and a pitcher to use in the rotation at least until Zack Wheeler returns from Tommy John surgery in June or July.

The Mets feel like they have internal options, so there is no desperation in any of those cases. For instance, the Amazin’s have lefty-hitters Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Darrell Ceciliani and Brandon Nimmo already with the organization and available to complement Lagares in center field. And they have Sean Gilmartin, Logan Verrett and Rafael Montero as starting-pitching options if they do not re-sign Bartolo Colon or otherwise add from outside.

“I think we have the ability to do all three,” Ricco said about the reliever, outfielder and starting pitcher. “If the pieces that we like are there, we have the resources to do it. I think we have the money to do it. Whether we do it will probably depend on who the players are, and whether we view them as an upgrade to what we have already.”

Like with Darren O'Day and Ryan Madson, the Mets did not engage free-agent reliever Tony Sipp, who reportedly is headed back to the Houston Astros on a three-year, $18 million deal. The remaining free-agent relief market includes left-hander Antonio Bastardo.

“As we moved forward, we got a little bit more substantive in terms of the conversations,” Ricco said about the relief market. “I think we’re in a good place. We know the landscape. It’s just a matter of where we decide we’re going to target and be aggressive. We’ll head back to New York, regroup with Sandy and decide what the strategy is from here. ... Our goal is definitely to continue to add, and add at least one more piece in the pen -- preferably somebody who is a veteran and who can help us at the back end. You never know how it’s going to go, but that’s the goal.”

Contrasting the pursuit of a starting pitcher compared with their outfield aggressiveness, Ricco said: “It’s probably a little less aggressive there. I still think there’s a chance we do something for that fifth starter’s spot.”

As for how the additions of Walker and Cabrera affect Wilmer Flores, the Mets have noted that they want to give manager Terry Collins versatility. So Flores still should find playing time between spelling David Wright at third base, filling in for Walker at second base against some left-handed pitching, and starts at shortstop.

“We’re looking to find ways to complement the guys we have,” Ricco said. “We think we have some good players. But whether it be through giving them more rest or finding ways to get them at-bats in situations where they’ll thrive, that’s the goal. And trying to find pieces that allow us to do that is what we’ve been focused on.”