Sandy Alderson acknowledged the Mets need starting rotation insurance, in part because there's no absolute assurance Johan Santana will be ready in April.
Still, Alderson acknowledged, adding starting pitching depth is tricky because assuming everyone is healthy, the rotation should be Santana, Jon Niese, R.A. Dickey, Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee and any signee would need to work out of the bullpen or be dispatched to Triple-A.
“If we stick someone in, who’s the logical person to go down? We don’t really have a logical candidate to go down," Alderson said. "But we do have some question marks, of course, with Santana being one of them. We think he’s going to be ready, but he might not be. That’s where the depth becomes important.
“The problem with rotation depth is you have to hit the sweet spot. You have to find somebody who could be a swingman -- because if everything goes right, we don’t have a spot in that rotation. So it’s got to be somebody who can either be a swingman out of the bullpen, or somebody who could go to Triple-A initially and maybe move up and down.
“There are some interesting names out there. We have to hit the right spot with the guy that gives us the kind of flexibility that will ultimately give us the depth. And that’s not always easy to find.
“We claimed [Jeremy] Hefner off waivers yesterday. I think he’s the kind of guy that would fit what we’re looking for in terms of depth – somebody that has options that we can move back and forth. He’s not an established name, but someone we think nonetheless might be helpful."
Alderson did not expect anything notable to be accomplished with starting pitching or otherwise before Jan. 1.
“Nothing has happened since the [winter] meetings that would suggest that anything is going to get done soon,” Alderson said. “… Anything that would happen between now and Christmas would be minor. I think the market is going to start to slow down between now and Christmas and probably stay that way until New Years, and then pick up again.”
As for trade rumblings involving Niese, the GM added: "He’s part of our plans for next year. Absolutely. But we made it clear from the get-go that we’ll talk about almost anybody. But at this point that’s all it is, is talk. I wouldn’t say that it’s even been significant conversations. He’s still very much part of our plans.”