Collins: Top priority is protection for David

NEW YORK -- Terry Collins said Thursday night that job No. 1 for Sandy Alderson and crew this offseason is to find a bat to protect David Wright. Getting some pitching help given Matt Harvey will miss 2014 would help too, the manager added.

"No. 1, we've got to find a bat in the middle of the lineup that produces runs," Collins said at Joe Torre's annual charity event in Manhattan. "We certainly hoped Ike [Davis] could do it. He had a rough year. He's certainly not done by any means. He's still a young guy. But for us to compete, we've got to make sure we have a guy who we know is going to produce. We've got to protect David. I know that's probably our No. 1 priority right now.

"I think we've certainly got to take a hard look at our young pitching to see if any of those guys are ready, because with Matt being out, those are a lot of innings to fill. As I keep telling people: You know, those aren't just innings. Those are zeroes. This guy put zeroes on the board. So it's not just anybody that can fill his shoes. So we may have to look at pitching also."

Collins also expects the Mets to follow the "Red Sox model" -- signing a bulk of middle-tier free agents rather than the biggest names.

"I'm sure that's what the philosophy is going to be," Collins said. "Again, that's Sandy's stuff. As I've always said: When I get to spring training, I'll see what names are on the locker and try to do the best we can with it.

"Right now, I've got to get Ruben Tejada going. He's at a fitness place right now, trying to get himself in good shape. We've got to get Ike going. And if there's somebody else there, I can't really worry about people I don't have. All I know is Sandy is going to get some guys, and there will be room for them."

Collins agreed this is the most important offseason of his and Alderson's tenure. Collins said he has been asked by Paul DePodesta to recruit some minor-league free agents, but has not yet been asked to try to persuade a recognizable free agent to come to Queens.

"I knew when I got hired here that there were some things that had to get done," Collins said. "One was we had to clear some money, some of the contracts that we had. I know that we're trying to build up the minor-league system. And it's taken some time. But I think now we've got some freedom, some money to spend. We'll see what it buys. I've been reading some of the costs. I'm really thrilled for Marlon Byrd. But you look at the money that's been handed out so far, they're getting paid. I know that."

On his own responsibility this winter, Collins added: "This is Sandy's time right now."