Posted on December 20, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine

New York Mets outfield

Image via newsday.com

Ever since they re-signed Yoenis Cespedes on a four-year deal, the New York Mets have very publicly been attempting to trade one of their outfielders, most notably Jay Bruce, to avoid a logjam of left-hand hitting outfielders when the season begins. Now in a rather unique twist, there are rumblings that the Mets are now actually trying to acquire another outfielder, specifically a center fielder.

Ken Rosenthal reports the Mets are “semi-engaged” in talks to acquire a center fielder, with quite a few names on their list of possible targets. That seems to indicate that they are in the early stages of making a move, and that nothing is imminent. Nevertheless, the Mets are at least exploring the market for center fielders, most likely via trade, as the remaining crop of center fielders on the free agent market are not all that impressive and no better than what the Mets already have on their roster.

The only true center fielder on New York’s roster is Juan Lagares, who is a Gold Glove caliber defensive player but a player who has struggled to hit right-handed pitching consistently and been injury prone. The plan at the moment is for Lagares to split time in center field with Curtis Granderson, with Cespedes in left field every day, Michael Conforto in right field every day, and Bruce being traded.

Granderson is no longer a true center fielder at age 36, but he did play there late in 2016, with Cespedes in left and Bruce in right, and he handled himself quite well. However, keeping him there all season isn’t ideal, even with Lagares there in a potential platoon and late-game defensive replacement. New York’s pitching staff would certainly prefer to have Lagares patrolling center field all year, but it remains to be seen whether he can hit enough to play regularly. Thus, the Mets are looking at the market to see if acquiring another center fielder is possible.

Of course, to add another outfielder, the Mets would have to trade two of their current outfielders, with Bruce, Granderson, and Conforto being the most likely candidates. Trading Bruce has already proved difficult, and will likely continue to be difficult until free agents like Colby Rasmus and Michael Saunders sign with a team. The Mets have received more interest in Granderson than Bruce, but they’d prefer to keep him, in part because they need him to be their primary center fielder this year. Meanwhile, Conforto may be a necessary trade chip if the Mets add a top-flight center fielder.

The Mets are reportedly unenthused about two potential trade options on the Kansas City Royals: Jarrod Dyson and Lorenzo Cain, as both have just one year left on their contract and are not all that different from Lagares. The remaining options would be Charlie Blackmon and Andrew McCutchen, both of whom come with a big price tag. The Mets would need to give up some combination of Conforto, top prospect Amed Rosario, and one of their young pitchers, most likely Steven Matz, just to start a conversation about acquiring Blackmon or McCutchen. New York appears quite reluctant to part with any of those three players.

At the moment, the Mets appear to be doing nothing more than kicking the tires on a center field acquisition. To make it happen, the Mets would likely have to part with players they covet, while also turning around and trading both Bruce and Granderson (assuming Conforto isn’t dealt in the deal for a center fielder). That’s a lot of work to do in a market still flooded with free agent hitters, not to mention the price to add a player like Blackmon or McCutchen. The Mets are right to do their due diligence, but the idea of upgrading in center field seems unrealistic at this point.

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