With Yoenis Cespedes returning on a four-year, $110 million deal, the New York Mets have a glut of outfielders. In fact, they now have six who already are established at the major league level: Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, Michael Conforto, Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo.
So the intention is to trade from that stockpile for prospects.
Here’s the interesting wrinkle: Don’t be surprised if the person traded is Granderson, not Bruce. And don’t be surprised if that trade happens next week.
The Mets will listen to offers on both outfielders through next week’s winter meetings and may very well move one of them by the time the gathering in National Harbor, Maryland, breaks up on Dec. 9. (Of course, that presumes a labor deal this week. Otherwise, the winter meetings are expected to be canceled.)
Both outfielders are signed only through the 2017 season -- Bruce for $13 million and Granderson for $15 million as his four-year, $60 million deal expires. The question is which one will yield the better return, perhaps from a team that had been considering Cespedes. That group reportedly included the San Francisco Giants and Toronto Blue Jays.
Bruce, 29, largely struggled after joining the Mets in an Aug. 1 trade with the Cincinnati Reds but overall hit .250 with 33 homers and 99 RBIs in 539 at-bats in 2016.
Granderson, 35, hit .237 with 30 homers and 59 RBIs in 545 at-bats. (Batting leadoff in half the Mets’ games suppressed his RBI total, as did an uncanny knack for solo homers.)
Meanwhile, the Mets will abide by Cespedes’ wishes and abandon using him in center field. That means the righty-hitting Lagares should share duty in center field with Conforto and/or Granderson, if Granderson is the one not traded.
With Neil Walker having returned on a $17.2 million qualifying offer for 2017, the Mets’ roster as far as position players go is pretty much set -- aside from trading the one veteran outfielder.
The Mets are not enamored with Travis d’Arnaud's recent output both behind the plate and in the batter’s box (.247/.307/.323 in 2016). But with a lack of upgrades available at catcher, team officials are prepared to enter next season with d’Arnaud as the primary backstop. That’s a large reason why the Mets hired Glenn Sherlock to replace Tim Teufel as third-base coach. Sherlock has extensive experience coaching catchers. And the Mets believe d’Arnaud’s struggles behind the plate may have been weighing on him and affected his offense. The Mets were without a catching instructor at the major league level last season after bench coach Dick Scott replaced Bob Geren, who had departed for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The only remaining heavy lifting for the Mets this winter is bulking up the late-inning relief corps. Although a simple assault charge against Jeurys Familia may be dropped at a Dec. 15 hearing in Fort Lee, New Jersey, the closer still could face an MLB suspension over a domestic violence allegation. That could push primary setup man Addison Reed temporarily into the closer’s role. And the Mets already are down a lefty specialist and a setup man since Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas are free agents.
The Mets’ payroll, including estimates for arbitration-eligible players, currently stands at $145.4 million. It may end up slightly under that sum when all is said and done. That’s because the money saved by trading Granderson or Bruce may not be fully reinvested in the bullpen. The Mets probably will spread money over several reliever options and see who rises to the top rather than pay a premium for a single reliever. That probably means Blevins is headed elsewhere, despite the Mets’ liking his contribution and having initial interest in re-signing him. Blevins is likely to command a multiyear deal at a high salary for a lefty specialist.