It is the most exciting time of the offseason. Free agency is in full force. Trade talks are heating up and the New York Mets are looking to reboot their National League Championship roster. With Daniel Murphy declining his qualifying offer and Yoenis Cespedes looking to cash in for a major payday, the Mets have more questions than answers at this point.
So let’s start with what we do know….
The Mets are looking to upgrade their middle-infield defense and acquire at least one, preferably two legitimate bats to help replace the offensive production lost from Murphy and Cespedes. They are also looking to bolster their bullpen, which was the cause of so many late-game meltdowns last season.
The Mets still value their starting pitching more than anything. They will not trade any of their five young starting pitchers unless they’re blown out of the water by an offer that they simply cannot refuse. The Mets were tied to discussions with a myriad of free agents, including Ben Zobrist, Darren O’Day and Gerardo Parra. They have focused their efforts on late inning relief and infield defense.
They’re “very interested” in Zobrist and would value him as a priority over a potential resigning of Daniel Murphy simply because of his versatility, reported Tim Rohan of the New York Times on Wednesday. Newsday’s Marc Carig says there has been “steady dialogue” between Zobrist’s camp and the Mets. Zobrist is seeking a four-year deal.
Carig also reported that the Mets will make a legitimate offer to Murphy, but unless he is willing to accept leaving a large amount of cash on the table a reunion would be unlikely. Murphy is seeking a five-year deal worth around $75 million.
Parra and the Mets have also been in contact, according to Carig. Parra would likely be acquired to platoon with current center fielder Juan Lagares. However, Parra is typically a corner outfielder and wouldn’t be inclined to accept less playing time with the Mets. Having two corner outfielders that have already established their presence in the lineup and a center fielder who isn’t going anywhere any time soon makes it increasingly difficult to entice Parra to sign on. Unless they can figure out a way to unload Lagares’s contract on another team via a trade, Parra seems like a long shot.
On Wednesday, Mike Puma of the New York Post reported that the Mets were interested in O’Day but were concerned about the market price he could reach. If the price escalates to the range that O’Day desires, the Mets would likely be out of the mix. Ken Rosenthal reported that O’Day is seeking a four-year contract in the $28-36 million range.
Other potential names that have come up include Ian Desmond and Andrelton Simmons. The Atlanta Braves briefly discussed the possibility of a trade with the Mets for Simmons, but talks reached a screeching halt when Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, and Jacob deGrom were what the Braves wanted in return. Simmons was later traded to the Los Angeles Angels. Former Nationals shortstop Desmond is still available and may be a less pricey option. Desmond, 30, is a reliable shortstop who came off a disappointing, error-prone 2015 season. While he’s no Simmons, he could prove to be a stable defensive pickup for the Mets at a far more inexpensive price.
An additional option the Mets could consider is the removal of David Wright from third base and the possibility of trading Lucas Duda. Wright, 32, is no longer an elite talent. He’s had significant injury issues and his production has taken a major dip. He’s no longer a .300 hitter who can be at the heart of the lineup on a daily basis. With last year’s diagnosis of spinal stenosis, it could be in the Mets’ best interest to move him to a less strenuous position. Quite frankly, the hot corner is not an old man’s position. Moving Wright to first base and trading Duda could be the smartest method of preventing Wright from having to play such a demanding position on a daily basis. A trade involving Duda could also bring back infield defense. Duda’s value as a slugger is as high as it has ever been. He is a typical hot and cold player, but he is a surefire 25-30 home run hitter. If the Mets can successfully acquire a middle infielder in return, they could potentially shore up their entire infield defense for the 2016 season. Wilmer Flores could be moved to his natural third base position. Second base and shortstop could be played by any one of the plethora of options previously mentioned and Dilson Herrera is always available as an option out of the minor leagues.