10:03pm: Though there have been some discussions involving McCutchen, “there’s no traction there,” per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo (via Twitter). New York is “not actively looking to upgrade” at the center-field position at this time, he adds.
9:18pm: On the selling side of the equation for the Mets, the Blue Jays “remain in talks” regarding both Bruce and Granderson, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network (via Twitter).
8:45pm: The Mets are at least looking into the possibility of a trade for a center fielder, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. He describes the organization as being “semi-engaged” in talks for a variety of possibilities.
Among the options, it seems, are a few high-profile veterans. There has been some “preliminary” talk with the Pirates on Andrew McCutchen, but there’s no present momentum towards a deal. Likewise, New York has spoken with the Royals, but doesn’t want to add a one-year rental in Lorenzo Cain and evidently is not excited about adding another speed/glove player in Jarrod Dyson, who Rosenthal says is viewed as being “too similar” to in-house option Juan Lagares.
There are other theoretical options that could be pursued, but Rosenthal notes that Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies and Billy Hamilton of the Reds don’t necessarily appear to represent matches. (Colorado doesn’t seem interested in dealing Blackmon, at least at a palatable price; Hamilton doesn’t deliver the kind of on-base threat that the Mets prefer, and he too is said to come with a high asking price.) The report does not indicate that the Mets have specifically considered or inquired about either player.
Of course, even if there was a clear target, matters are complicated by the fact that the Mets would need to pull off at least one other move to clear roster space. In addition to the center-field-capable Lagares, and newly re-inked left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, New York employs three left-handed-hitting options for right field: Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, and Michael Conforto.
While it has long been assumed that one of the two veterans (Granderson and Bruce) will end up being traded, adding a regular in center might entail finding takers for both. And the open market still has a few players that interested teams could view as alternatives. There’s certainly value in the fact that both of those options have only one year left on their contracts, but they aren’t exactly cheap seasons; Bruce is owed $13MM after the Mets picked up his option, while Granderson will earn $15MM in the final year of his free-agent deal. While one of the three in-house players could conceivably end up at first base, that’s already manned by southpaw-swinging Lucas Duda, and there’s no indication that the Mets have looked to find a taker for him in a market still flooded with lefty first base/DH bats.
As Rosenthal goes on to note, the Mets’ remaining needs in the bullpen also complicate matters. Trade partners will likely be interested in young talent at or near the majors, and if New York continues to hold off on dealing Conforto or top prospect Amed Rosario, it may well need to part with arms (such as Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo) to get a deal done. That would mean further paring back the depth in the relief corps, which already could stand to add one or two arms.
While there are obvious complications here for the Mets, it’s not hard to see the reasoning behind exploring the market for a center fielder. Lagares is still just 27 and still brings value with the glove, but hasn’t produced at the plate since signing his five-year extension before the 2015 season. While a platoon would make sense — his career OPS is about 100 points higher against lefties — the lefty bats mentioned above would be stretched defensively up the middle.
Purely hypothetically, if the Mets end up dealing one or more of their slugging corner bats, and can’t find a suitable trade for a regular center fielder, the alternative might be to add a lefty platoon piece that is capable of playing center. Potential options could include free agents Ben Revere and Michael Bourn, though neither impressed at the plate over the full course of the 2016 season.