The Mets should be looking to improve their bullpen, as well as add an everyday catcher, at least one impact hitter and depth beneath the entire roster.
Here are the latest headlines and rumblings from each of the above markets, followed by my take on how things currently stand and may shake out…
Adding an outfielder…
The Mets, and now the Reds, are among teams recently linked to free-agent center fielder A.J. Pollock, according to Fancred.com’s Jon Heyman.
Free-agent Michael Brantley is willing to be a part-time first base, as well as an everyday outfielder, next season, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Thursday.
The Royals are among teams taking a hard look at recently non-tendered, now free agent center fielder Billy Hamilton, according to The Athletic’s Rustin Dodd.
Hamilton, 28, is not a very good overall hitter, but he’s still among the game’s elite fielders and probably the best baserunner in the league. As a result, I have always thought Hamilton and Juan Lagares could make for an interesting platoon in center field. I’m not saying this in the traditional, left-right type platoon, because they both hit righties better than lefties. However, with Hamilton being a switch hitter and having great instincts and speed on the bases, he would allow Mickey Callaway to balance varying looks to his lineup and late-game defense. Also, by being able to occasionally sit Lagares, it could help keep him healthy on field more than if he’s risking his body every day of the week.
Together, assuming they both stay healthy for 150 or more games in a season, Hamilton and Lagares can reasonably be expected to combine for a 2.5 WAR season, which would put them middle of the pack in the National League. More important, though, they guarantee that every day there will be a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder behind the team’s pitching staff.
On the other hand, while Brantley is intriguing as an occasional first-base fill in and fourth outfielder, he can’t be viewed as a possible everyday solution for the Mets given the state of the roster. Right now, though he’ll probably end up signing for less, he’s probably seeking a four-year deal, which is a lot for an often-injured 31 year old.
Trading for a pitcher…
The Indians inked their number three starter, Carlos Carrasco, to a contract extension that will keep him in Cleveland through 2022.
It’s long been assumed that the Indians were more likely to trade Trevor Bauer or Corey Kluber than Carrasco. Apparently, this is why… The Mets have been rumored to have interest in the former, a) because they’re awesome, but b) because they were both students and fans of Callaway, who was their developmental pitching coach with the Indians. Similarly, Callaway is clearly a fan of them. In fact, one year ago, he said he felt he could help make Jacob deGrom more successful than Kluber and he was obviously right. To add Kluber to a rotation with deGrom and Noah Syndergaard would be incredible and I think that’s exactly what Brodie Van Wagenen and Callaway want to do.
My hunch is Van Wagenen doesn’t want to deal Brandon Nimmo to the Marlins for J.T. Realmuto because he’d like to use him to acquire Kluber. The Indians are asking everyone for their best, young outfielder and Nimmo, who had a 4.5 WAR last season, is exactly that guy…
Contract extension for deGrom…
In total, during the next four years, the Indians will owe $44 million to Carrasco, after which he’ll become a free agent at 35 years old.
Carrasco’s deal will likely prove to be a major bargain for the Indians given that teams are skeptical of giving long-term contracts to pitchers older than 30 years old. In that sense, the Carrasco deal provides a touch of insight in to how the Mets may approach Jacob deGrom when negotiating a contract extension.
DeGrom was a significantly better than Carrasco this past season, but Carrasco was better the previous two years. And, at roughly the same age, the bigger issue for the Mets will be what can be expected of deGrom during the next two seasons, when – if they do nothing – he’s likely to earn close to $30 million through the arbitration process.
In writing about a possible extension, there are reporters using informed speculation that believe deGrom could be asking for as much as a seven-year deal starting next season. This makes sense, given it is what now-Mets GM and former deGrom agent Brodie Van Wagenen had been telling people last year at this time. Of course, that was when deGrom’s agent arguing for the absolute most money and years possible.
MLB insiders I talk with all feel a fair extension would be for deGrom’s first three years of free agency, i.e., a five-year deal starting next season, worth a total of $65-70 million.
As a result, if the Mets don’t feel super confident in the potential of deGrom’s age 33, 34 and 35 seasons, which would cost them roughly $35 million, it’s reasonable to think Van Wagenen should value his former client in a similar way to how the Indians are valuing Carrasco’s next four years culminating in his age 35 season.
The point is, given Carrasco’s value to the Indians the past few years, given what he projects to be, given his current extension and given everything we know and believe about deGrom, a fair offer to Jake continues to be five-years starting next season paying him a $70 million.
Obviously, deGrom wants more, but needs to weigh that against betting on his health and ability to maintain his success so he can get more as a free agent in two seasons.
If I were him, even though I know I’m better than Carrasco, I’d take the five-year extension and hope I can find another two-or-three year deal as a free agent when I’m 35 years old.
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!