By end of the Winter Meetings on Thursday, I expect the Mets will…
1. Sign a high-end free-agent reliever
The Mets have discussed contract terms with free-agent relievers Andrew Miller and David Robertson, I’ve heard from team insiders. I’m sure they’ve gone this far down the road with the prominent relievers such as Adam Ottavino as well.
The Mets already added one of the game’s best late-game relievers when trading for Edwin Diaz earlier this month. He’s not enough and Brodie Van Wagenen knows it. Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman provide terrific middle relief and can also serve as spot starters. And, the Mets do have a number of young, in-house pitchers that could emerge to be bonafide options throughout the season. However, the above also has the potential to be a disaster, which is why they’re working hard to ink one of the free agent market’s more prominent relievers with experience pitching in relief, in a big market and in the postseason.
Miller and Robertson are perfect fits, with the former having pitched for the Yankees and in the postseason for Mets manager Mickey Callaway, and with the latter having pitched in October for the Yankees and Red Sox.
I don’t see a reunion with Jeurys Familia and I bet Craig Kimbrel drags out his free agency until January. Therefore, I expect we see Van Wagenen pick up Miller or Robertson. If not, they’ll sign Ottavino or Zach Britton. I just don’t think this is an area where Van Wagenen and Callaway want to mess around, so much so that I expect they’ll try to add a lesser, second reliever either on a one-year deal or with a minor-league contract.
2. Sign a utility-infielder for depth and leverage
The only infield position locked down at this point is shortstop with Amed Rosario, and even he’s been the subject of trade rumors. Todd Frazier will probably play third base, but is in decline and missed time last season with injuries. Robinson Cano will play a lot of second base, but he’s 36 years old and lost several steps from where he was a few years ago. First base may or may not go to Peter Alonso on Opening Day and I have no idea what Van Wagenen plans for Jeff McNeil other than he likes him and knows he should be in the lineup.
The Mets could look to add an everyday player at one of these positions. Or, they could simply add a super-utility infielder capable of being an everyday presence in the lineup and able to start at multiple positions or be depth for Callaway on the bench.
By quickly adding a player like Marwin Gonzalez or even reuniting with Asdrubal Cabrera or Wilmer Flores would allow them to exhale, assume things will work itself out during Spring Training. Then, once this player is added, they can turn their attention full time to acquiring an everyday center fielder and/or right-handed bat with power to the lineup.
3. Lay the groundwork for acquiring a starting pitcher
The only reason the Mets would need to add a top-tier starting pitcher is if they end up trading Noah Syndergaard. In the event Syndergaard is not traded, Van Wagenen may still want to add a mid-tier guy that can act as depth and give them options to possibly include Zack Wheeler in a deal later this winter.
In a perfect world, I 100 percent believe — based on conversations with people that would know — that Van Wagenen and Callaway would love to acquire Indians ace Corey Kluber and pair him with Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Wheeler and Steven Matz, which would allow Jason Vargas to act as an acquisition for the bullpen.
However, the Indians want an outfielder, likely either Brandon Nimmo or Michael Conforto. The Marlins also like Nimmo. So, until the Mets have a read on the outfield market and/or they commit to keeping Nimmo, they can’t deal him for Kluber.
4. Acquire a catcher
The Mets need and will soon add a catcher. They need an everyday backstop because it’s a hole on the roster, but also it will help attract free agent pitchers that are being pitched joining a team that has finished below .500 in back-to-back seasons.
According to a Miami source, the Marlins are fully aware of Van Wagenen’s top offer to get Realmuto and it doesn’t include Amed Rosario. Unfortunately, that’s exactly who the Marlins want from the Mets. There are other reports, including from SNY’s Andy Martino, indicating they want another everyday player as well, specifically Nimmo. This is a lot to give up and probably the result of needing to pay extra for being a team in the NL East.
Meanwhile, Yasmani Grandal, Martin Maldonado and Wilson Ramos are sitting idle in the free agent market. The fact that the Mets have not just jumped on one of them means one of three things, either 1) they truly believe they can wrangle Realmuto away from the Marlins, 2) they don’t love Grandal, Maldonado or Ramos, or 3) they like the trio of free agent catchers, but prefer to let the market come to them given that everyone in baseball knows they desperately need a catcher.
This position has to be resolved, though. So, by the end of the week, I expect the Mets will have either signed a free-agent catcher or they will have traded for Realmuto. If it’s a free agent they go with, it’ll depend on how they’re doing with improving the rest of their lineup. If they add or feel confident they can add a big hitter, they can go with defense-first Maldonado. If they’re less confident in improving at other positions, they’ll go Grandal, since Ramos really needs to be in the American League.
5. Lay groundwork for adding an everyday center fielder
There is not a lot of demand, nor a lot of supply, for center fielders. The Mets need one, though, and someone that can play well in the field, especially given their reliance on starting pitching.
Van Wagenen is on record saying free-agent A.J. Pollock is a good fit for the Mets. However, Pollock is asking for a five- to six-year deal, which he’s never going to get, and he has not played in more than 75 games in a season since 2015.
The thing is, the Mets can always lay up here and go with a veteran, such as Adam Jones or Andrew McCutchen, and pair this player with a healthy Juan Lagares, as well as Nimmo, Conforto and eventually Yoenis Cespedes. Between the five guys, the outfield can work out.
For what it’s worth, I’m hoping they get a bat elsewhere and add Jones for center. He isn’t the best option, but he’s still athletic and his leadership, likability and professionalism would be a great addition to Van Wagenen’s roster.
6. Pass on trading Noah Syndergaard
For all of the talk about dealing Syndergaard the past month, I expect this week will be the official end of those rumors. The only way I see Syndergaard getting dealt this week is if the Astros decide to give up George Springer or Carlos Correa or if the Rockies decide it makes sense to do a one-for-one with Nolan Arenado. And, frankly, while tempting, I don’t see either side rocking their teams that much.
Van Wagenen and his staff will keep talking about Syndergaard with interested teams that could realistically make a deal. But, by the end of the week, I bet we hear Van Wagenen flat out say that Syndergaard isn’t getting dealt…
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Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans’ Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!