If the Mets want to add a true center fielder this offseason, their best bets could be to turn to the trade market (Starling Marte?) or perhaps the free agent market. But not the major league free agent market, because that one is basically barren.
Enter Japanese free agent Shogo Akiyama?
According to MLBTradeRumors, Akiyama is now an international free agent. And under the new rules, any team that signs him can do so outright -- no longer having to deal with paying a fee to his old team through the posting system.
The 31-year-old Akiyama has hit .301/.376/.454 in nine seasons in Japan and has been incredibly durable, playing between 131 and 144 games each of the last seven seasons (the NPB plays 146-game seasons).
The Mariners, Padres, Diamondbacks, and Cubs are among the teams that scouted Akiyama this past season.
In their scouting report of Akiyama, Sports Info Solutions noted that he "has starting outfielder tools right now. His quick hands and good bat speed give him above-average game power and hit tools," adding that he's an above-average runner and has "good range and jumps in center."
However, there is concern that Akiyama could be on the decline defensively in center field, with Sports Info Solutions noting that a move to a corner outfield spot long-term could be in the cards.
If an interested team believes Akiyama can stick in center field and be a solid glove there at least over the next few seasons, he could be well worth the risk.
As presently constituted, the Mets have a very crowded outfield, with J.D. Davis, Brandon Nimmo, and Michael Conforto the likely starters if the season were to start today. There's also the presence of Jeff McNeil, who looks like the team's starting third baseman but who spent most of his time in the outfield in 2019. And there's Yoenis Cespedes, who has been out of sight since 2018 and is entering the last year of his contract.
The Mets badly need to improve their outfield defense, though, and center field could be the easiest spot to do it -- if the team holds on to Davis and determines that he can handle left field defensively going forward.
Nimmo was passable in center field this past season, worth -1 DRS in 481.0 innings after being worth -6 DRS in 1,040.2 innings out there in 2018. And there is a case to be made that the Mets should simply stick with him in center field. But if they want a better defender (and one who can cover more ground to make up for Davis being in left) who they plan to play nearly every day, they'll have to look elsewhere.