Bullpen, infield Mets' priorties at Meetings

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Hot Stove Tracker

Here, then, is a look at what the Mets hope to accomplish at the Winter Meetings and beyond:

Club needs

Bullpen: The Mets have made this their clear top priority, and it’s one they’re likely to address soon. General manager Sandy Alderson’s goal is to find at least one established reliever to group with Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins at the back of new manager Mickey Callaway’s bullpen, and it appears he’s willing to spend a sizeable portion of his budget to do so. Realistically, the Mets will shop in the second tier of free-agent relievers — a group that includes Brandon Morrow, Bryan Shaw and Reed.

Reed tallies his 19th save

Reed tallies his 19th save

NYM@SEA: Reed retires Cruz to solidify the save

Addison Reed forces Nelson Cruz to fly out to left field for the final out of the game, tallying his 19th save of the year

Second base: Though there is a chance the Mets could pivot and acquire a third baseman instead, pushing Asdrubal Cabrera to the keystone, the team’s clear preference is to fill its infield gap at second. The trade market appears riper than free agency, with Ian Kinsler and Dee Gordon among those reportedly available. But the Mets could also pursue an old friend, Walker, on the open market.

First base/outfield: Ideally, the Mets will acquire a hybrid capable of playing both these positions, such as Bruce, Logan Morrison or Adam Lind. That would cover them in the outfield in the event that Michael Conforto‘s recovery from shoulder surgery stalls, and at first base in case Dominic Smith‘s rookie struggles spill over into his sophomore season.

Smith on winning job in 2018

Smith on winning job in 2018

Smith on fighting to earn job at first base in 2018

Dominic Smith discusses the thrill of getting called up to the big leagues in 2017 and how he plans to earn the starting job at first base

Who they can trade if necessary

The Mets do not have many trade chips available at the Major or Minor league levels. Their lack of rotation depth should prevent them from dealing Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman to fill other needs, and their selloff of veteran hitters last summer left them without much fat on their active roster. Perhaps Wilmer Flores, a valuable platoon infielder, could become expendable if the Mets acquire the right infield piece. Perhaps Smith could entice, but the Mets would be selling low on him.

On the farm, the Mets have already graduated top prospects Amed Rosario and Smith, leaving their system relatively thin. It is unlikely the Mets could make a major trade splash using just prospects.

Top prospects

Per MLBPipeline.com, the Mets’ top prospects are left-hander David Peterson, right-hander Justin Dunn, shortstop Andres Gimenez, left-hander Thomas Szapucki, outfielder Desmond Lindsay, right-hander Marcos Molina, first baseman Peter Alonso, infielder Gavin Cecchini, catcher Tomas Nido and third baseman Mark Vientos.

Of that group, only Cecchini and Nido are likely to play significant roles in 2018. Gimenez, who is just 19, shot up the prospect ranks this year and boasts a high ceiling. Peterson, the Mets’ first-round Draft pick in June, is about to enter his first full professional season.

Cecchini's tough play

Cecchini’s tough play

NYM@PHI: Cecchini makes a tough scoop to rob Herrera

Gavin Cecchini shows off his reflexes by making a quick scoop to rob Odubel Herrera of a hit in the bottom of the 1st inning

Rule 5 Draft

The Mets haven’t selected and kept a Rule 5 player since 2010, and that isn’t likely to change now, with a jammed 40-man roster and a crowded bullpen.

Big contracts they might unload

The only guaranteed contracts on New York’s books are those of David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes, Cabrera, Juan Lagares and Blevins. Of that group, only Lagares stands even the slightest chance of being traded, and that’s unlikely given the Mets’ uncertainty in center field.

Payroll summary

The Mets opened last season north of $155 million, a number that Alderson has expressed a desire to stay below this offseason. But the GM hinted that he convinced ownership to overspend its budget last offseason, with a promise to unload salary if things went south. When they did, Alderson kept his promise, which could earn him enough trust to make a similar bargain this offseason.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.