NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The New York Mets made no secret that their top free-agent target this offseason was Ben Zobrist. Now it’s on to Plan B, after Zobrist opted for a four-year, $56 million deal with the Chicago Cubs.
Mets assistant general manager John Ricco was informed directly by Zobrist of the decision on Tuesday evening.
“It’s disappointing,” Ricco said. “I’m going to be honest. He’s a guy we thought fit very well for us. So I will say that. But we’ve been through many situations where you have to adjust and adapt. That’s why you have a plan that has multiple options and don’t go all in on any one of them. I think we’ll be fine.”
Ricco would not specify the Mets’ offer, but acknowledged that it was comparable to the Cubs’ winning bid. Ricco suggested that Chicago’s proximity to Zobrist’s Nashville home as well as Zobrist’s relationship with Cubs manager Joe Maddon from their days with the Tampa Bay Rays appeared the deciding factors.
“I don’t think this was about money,” Ricco said. “It was about him finding a place that fit. I think he liked a lot about what we were. He has some history with the manager in Chicago. It’s a little closer to home for him. He made that decision, and we’ll move on.”
Mets officials privately acknowledged there is no clear-cut Plan B to upgrade the middle infield. The Mets will have some dialogue with free-agent Daniel Murphy, but believe he will receive a lucrative offer elsewhere and depart.
The Mets ultimately could pair prospect Dilson Herrera with a lower-tier signing for 2016. They also will continue to scour the trade market.
“That’s one of the options,” Ricco said regarding Herrera. “We have some young players we really like. We’re trying to find ways to augment this roster.”
On Murphy, Ricco said: “We’ve been in contact with them, and we’ll continue to stay in contact. We’ll see where that goes.”
One often-mentioned option that’s now out: a trade with the Cubs for one of their surplus infielders. Starlin Castro was dealt Tuesday night by the Cubs to the Yankees for Adam Warren and a player to be named, likely Brendan Ryan.
Asked if the Mets were ever close to acquiring Castro over the years, Ricco said: “We’ve had a lot of discussions with the Cubs over time. I’m not going to comment about any individual players.”
On losing Zobrist, Ricco concluded: “We’ll move on and we’ll be all right.”