2010-2011: The Mets had no ability to sign a player for market value as their budget allowed them to add about $5 million to their payroll. They signed free agent catcher Ronny Paulino, outfielder Scott Hairston and pitchers Chris Capuano, Chris Young and Taylor Buchholz to 1 year contracts. They also signed free agent reliever DJ Carrasco to a 2 year deal. LHP Jonathon Niese was signed to a 5 year, team friendly contract extension.
Jason Isringhausen, Tim Byrdak and Willie Harris were signed to minor league contracts but made the team and spent the 2011 season with the Mets.
2011-2012: The Mets had a little more freedom to address their bullpen, but not much more in terms to the rest of their team. They signed Frank Francisco to a 2 year deal to be their closer. Free agents Hairston and Byrdak were brought back on 1 year deals. They then signed free agent RHP Jon Rauch and SS Ronny Cedeno to 1 year contracts.
Mike Baxter, who was claimed on waivers a year earlier by the Mets, was re-signed to a minor league contract. Chris Young was also brought back on a minor league contract. Baxter would spent all of 2012 on the Mets roster and Young would pitch exclusively for the Mets once rehab from his shoulder operation was completed.
2012-2013: David Wright was signed to a 7 year contract extension to remain with the Mets. It became an 8 year deal when his 2013 contract was reworked as part of his new deal. The two players who signed MLB deals with the Mets, RHP Shawn Marcum and RHP Brandon Lyon, were both released mid season.
This was arguably the Mets best offseason in getting value out of minor league contract signings. OF Marlon Byrd had an all star type season before being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. RHP Latroy Hawkins was one of the best relievers in the Mets pen in 2013 and served as the closer for the last couple months of the year. LHP Scott Rice established himself as a solid option as a left hand only one out reliever. They also got contributions from RHP Carlos Torres, who was an excellent swing man who can either start or relieve and SS Omar Quintanilla, who took over as the everyday SS a couple months into the season.
I agree that there is some value in being able to get undervalued players to fill roles on a team. However, it cannot be the saving grace of an offseason. The thought from some who follow the Mets front office is the fact that they may use their payroll flexibility to fill multiple needs as opposed to signing that one big free agent. Nothing wrong with that. It is with all hopes and expectations that the Mets will be interested in signing proven players to multi-year deals. Not counting Wright and Niese's extensions, the Mets have signed to players in three offseasons to contacts of more than one year. Among free agents that have been signed from other organizations, the Mets have given major league contracts to just nine other players. That is an average of three free agents to 1 year deals each offseason (plus less than one 2 year deal).
I think this offseason will be much different than the past three. The Mets have visible needs in the outfield, the bullpen and for at least one proven starting pitcher. They have to consider adding a new SS and 1B, in addition to possibly an additional starting pitcher (2). In year four of the new regime, the Mets are expected to be a competitive, playoff caliber team going into 2014. The weaknesses need to be addressed. Though some could be filled throughout trades, expect the Mets to have, hands down, their most productive offseason in regards to the free agent market. It cannot be much worse than the past three offseasons. (Within the team's control or not.)