Based on talks this past week with people at player agencies, as well as rival front offices, including team executives, people in player development, etc., here's what insiders are saying with roughly six weeks until spring training reporting dates...
1) Mets still want a starting pitcher
According to Fancred's Jon Heyman, the Mets had interest in free agent pitcher Martin Perez before he signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Twins.
The Mets are still looking to add a veteran starting pitcher, but prefer to ink him to a minor-league deal, according to New York sources. Much like Derek Holland, who I've heard also interested the Mets, Perez obviously had a better option. Holland inked a one-year, $7 million deal earlier this month.
As a result, the Mets continue to eye Josh Tomlin and other veteran arms (such as Bartolo Colon) considered desperate enough to take a non-guaranteed contract and invite to spring training.
It's worth noting that people say Tomlin enjoyed his time in Cleveland working with Mickey Callaway, who is now managing the Mets and clearly has a strong reputation among the league's pitchers.
2) It's a weak market for Lagares
In the event the Mets need to deal Juan Lagares, they can expect to bring back only an up-and-down reliever due to be a free agent, earning similar money and with a similar risk. The Mets aren't getting prospects and they sure aren't getting salary relief.
In other words, at this point, the only way I see the Mets dealing Lagares is if they acquire an outfielder better and/or more reliable than he is and it becomes smart to move him for pitching depth.
3) Harper and Machado, Machado and Harper
The Phillies have enough money to sign two premium free agents. However, they're more likely to sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado and one or two pitchers, such as Dallas Keuchel and/or Craig Kimbrel.
This is partly because of the Phillies, but mostly because Machado and Harper know that to maximize their deals it is best for them to be with different teams.
The way it stands, the White Sox, Phillies and Yankees are considered the most likely teams to end up signing Machado. However, I've talked to some people that actually think the Pirates and Marlins have interest.
Meanwhile, the Phillies, Nationals and Astros, and maybe the Blue Jays, are considered the most likely teams to sign Harper. The Cubs and Dodgers want him too, but just can't fit him into their current budget.
Harper started this winter hoping to land in Chicago, New York or Los Angeles, which is why more and more people think he could choose to remain a free agent until at least late February.
4) All eyes on Philly
Along those lines, the upper half of the free agent market is stopped, waiting for the Phillies to make a move. The common sense is they much prefer to sign Machado. And, reports of their love affair with Harper is by design to keep him intrigued, while also creating leverage in talks with Machado.
That said, if Machado balks and takes less to sign with the White Sox or someone else, the Phillies will happily take Harper. But, all things equal, like most people, I believe they would rather end up with Manny.
The buzz around A.J. Pollock, Keuchel, Kimbrel, etc., will become more intense the minute the ink starts to dry on Machado's contract.
5) Are the Braves done spending?
In an effort to add an outfielder, the Braves had reportedly been negotiating with Pollock, Nick Markakis and other options in the free agent and trade market. In the end, they chose Markakis, who played for them in 2018.
By spending roughly $10-12 million less next season on Markakis instead of signing Pollock, the Braves now have enough money to plug their remaining holes in pitching staff with more prominent talent. In other words, it wouldn't surprise me to see them get on all remaining top pitchers, specifically Gio Gonzalez and a reunion with Kimbrel.
6) So, what happens with Pollock?
I still think there's a legit chance he ends up signing with the Mets. There are several teams interested, but very few are down for giving him the four- to five-year deal he hoped to get at the start of the offseason. At this point, especially now that the Braves are out of the mix and the Cubs and Dodgers are short on funds, it's very, very difficult to see him signing more than a three-year deal, especially if he's hellbent on being paid an annual salary of at least $20 million.
As a result, insiders believe he's more likely to accept a short-term deal paying $15-17 million or taking a one year, roughly $20 million pillow contract that would let him retry being a free agent next winter.
7) You're not getting Nolan Arenado -- at least not yet
Teams keep asking about the Rockies about Arenado. However, the popular belief is that even if a team wants him, like Yankees, because the Rockies expect to win in 2019, they can't be serious about trading their best, most popular player, who wants to remain in Colorado.
Instead, people say the Rockies are clearly feeling out offers to gauge the player's value as they continue talking with him about a long-term contract. Worst case, by talking with teams now, they've laid the groundwork for a possible trade this summer.
As a free agent, expectation is Arenado will see offers of at least $250 million over eight years.
8) Why is Castellanos still on the Tigers?
The Mets are among the teams to show interest in Tigers OF-3B Nick Castellanos. However, in the end, like the rest of the National League, the Mets weren't eager to overpay for a guy that is clearly a DH, especially since the Tigers have been asking teams to pick up all of the player's salary.
9) If Mets want to trade Wheeler, look to Gray...
The industry seems to feel the Yankees and Reds made a fair deal when swapping Sonny Gray (and a minor league pitcher) for what net out to be a top 10 prospect from the Mariners.
This is what Brodie Van Wagenen could expect to get for Zack Wheeler, it seems, according to deal makers around the game. Wheeler is much better than Gray, but neither is an ace and (as of last week) both had one year left on their current contract.
10) I wouldn't rule out a strike...
During the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, the MLBPA is expected to push hard for major structural changes to how players negotiate and get paid. They're expected to start talks by addressing how teams compensate zero-to-three and arbitration players, especially now that modern front offices are paying free agents for what they will do and not what they have done.
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!