Posted by Reese Kaplan at 8:00 AM
The first shoe has dropped. Yoenis Cespedes and his collections of cars and horses are now part of the Mets’ future for the next four years. Celebrate that news however you see fit.
Now the question becomes what happens next? Obviously the Mets have too many outfielders. Both Curtis Granderson ($15 million) and Jay Bruce ($13 million) are on the last years of their respective deals. Michael Conforto showed great promise in his rookie year of 2015 but then had a d’Arnaud-like offensive tailspin in his sophomore campaign. Juan Lagares looks as if he’s remembered how to field and throw, but he too had his challenges when it came to wielding the almighty stick. Brandon Nimmo showed some flashes of potential last year and, after finishing a point behind teammate T.J. Rivera for the AAA batting crown, it would appear he has some legitimate potential as well.
In an ideal world the Mets would trade away both Bruce and Granderson, giving them $28 million payroll dollars to allocate in other ways. The problem with that strategy right off the top is that you’d be gambling big time on a return to form for Michael Conforto and penciling in a platoon of Lagares and Nimmo in centerfield.
Now, of course, some of that $28 million windfall could be used to pay for a more well regarded centerfielder. There’s free agent Dexter Fowler out there. So is Ian Desmond. After that the dropoff in quality happens rather rapidly. You have FAs like Drew Stubbs, Rajai Davis, Austin Jackson, Michael Bourn or Alejandro De Aza (sorry, threw up in my mouth a little on that last one).
The trade market is always a possibility, but once you unload Bruce and Granderson (presumably for prospects or bullpen help), the cupboard’s somewhat bare. You probably can’t afford to trade Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman until you know the state of the health of the other pitchers. You have Gavin Cecchini with nowhere to play which would make him a viable chip, but others might prefer T.J. Rivera or Wilmer Flores as they have shown an ability to hit major league pitching. Then there are the more highly regarded minor leaguers like Dom Smith, Amed Rosario and Thomas Szapucki who would net major returns but the Mets are probably dead set against trading low cost quality.
The next issue concerns the aforementioned bullpen. Jeurys Familia may receive a suspension which would push Addison Reed into closing duties. That leave the team without a 7th and 8th inning guy to lead up to the closer. Some familiar faces will likely return, including Hansel Robles, Josh Smoker, Josh Edgin and Erik Goeddel. Others on the 40 man roster include Sean Gilmartin and Rafael Montero (and, until Wednesday, Logan Verrett who was mercifully shipped to Baltimore). There’s certainly room for more quality to fill in for the free agents Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas.
Many people are signaling Baltimore as a possible destination for Curtis Granderson with Mychal Givens as one of the players coming in return. Givens has a career trajectory similar to the Mets’ own Paul Sewald, a late bloomer who’s done nothing but succeed on his long road to the majors. He’ll turn 27 this season and has two partial seasons in the bigs under his belt, but he’s excelled. Overall he’s 10-2 with a 2.75 ERA and a 134 strikeouts in 104 IP. He’s not a FA until 2022 and not arbitration eligible until 2019. That’s the kind of player Sandy Alderson would covet.
Of course the bullpen is not the only issue. Many are fearful of Travis d’Arnaud on three fronts – health, throwing and batting. Maybe the ideal is to land a catcher who’s major league ready in one of these deals. Granted, it’s not going to be a top flight receiver like Salvador Perez or Buster Posey, but perhaps there are teams with someone who has been groomed at AAA and would have someone available that the Mets could use as a backup to d’Arnaud (or starter should TdA prove once again unproductive or unavailable).
Toronto is rumored to be interested in Jay Bruce. Perhaps part of the package should be Max Pentecost, a strong hitting catcher who was formerly a first round pick for them before missing an entire year with shoulder surgery. As such he’s a bit behind where you’d expect him to be at age 23 and just entering AA this season, but he’s a career .304 hitter.
Another one is Baltimore’s Chance Sisco who is further down in the minors but hitting like Ted Simmons in his prime. He’s a .323 career hitter and zooming his way up the farm system. At age 22 he may be in AAA this year. He’d be like Baltimore asking us for Amed Rosario or Dom Smith, so that’s likely not going to happen, but it never hurts to ask.
Finally, I would suggest that Juan Lagares is probably in play in trade talks as well. His backloaded contract is set to pay him $20 million over the course of the 2017/2018/2019 seasons. He’s a nice player but nearly $7 million per year average seems a little stiff for a guy sitting on the bench most of the time. On a second tier club he might be a starter and again could result in cost savings if dealt for a prospect.
So what are your priorities? Would trading both Bruce and Granderson make sense? That $28 million could buy relievers or catchers.
Of course, if there’s no CBA then the Winter Meetings and most trade talks are off the table, so it’s something of a moot point.