The following are insights, ideas and notes gathered from recent conversations with team sources, rival executives, reporters, front office assistants and talent evaluators...
It's not just hot air, it seems there really are a lot of trades being discussed across the league. In many cases, several teams are involved on many of the same players, some of which could be passed on in favor of comparable free agents, which explains the gridlock and lack of action.
"It will open up eventually, I'd guess no later than next week," one rival NL East source told me Monday. "Take third base, at some point, someone is going to overbid (either for Josh Donaldson or in trade) and that will be that, the gates will open."
Adding an outfielder...
If you want to trade for Mookie Betts, the Red Sox want you to also take David Price, who is owed $96 million through 2022. The more of Price's contract you are willing to take, the fewer and lesser-quality prospects Boston will ask in return. Otherwise, they are fine sticking as is, bringing back their core team and revisiting a possible Betts deal this summer.
"They may actually get more for him in July than they'll get right now," the same source above added.
It's difficult to see how the Braves do not end up bringing back Josh Donaldson. If that happens, or if they trade for a high-priced third baseman, they'll be out on outfielder Marcell Ozuna.
Speaking of Ozuna, there is currently more of a market for him than Nick Castellanos. However, there are plenty in baseball that think he'll return to the Cardinals for one year and look for a more lucrative deal next winter.
It is widely believed that if not the Cardinals, then the Rangers are the most likely destination for Ozuna. The Mets have not been connected to Ozuna at any point this winter, which is a shame. He could be a nice fit for corner outfield.
He has four years of at least 148 games played and has been seeking a three- or four-year deal worth just under $20 million each season. This level contract doesn't seem likely, which makes him even more intriguing.
Adding a third baseman...
As of this past weekend, most people I know predicted Kris Bryant was more likely to be dealt than Francisco Lindor, Betts and Nolan Arenado. After Bryant, I'd go Lindor, then Betts.
The team trading for Bryant will need to pay his salary, and whether that's for one or two seasons has yet to be established by MLB. That ruling is expected before the end of January. At the same time, Chicago is wanting to get back at least two top prospects. However, they'll lessen their ask if a team is willing to take on additional salary from another higher-priced player.
I've heard Chicago is looking to move reliever Tyler Chatwood, who is due to make $13 million in 2020 before becoming a free agent at the end of the season. It seems to me that if the Mets don't have to give up too much in prospects to get Bryant and Chatwood that it would be a deal worth exploring for Brodie Van Wagenen.
In regards to Arenado, I don't know anyone who believes the Rockies will pull the trigger on a deal for him, despite a recent report setting even odds it could happen.
Instead, to a man, they all believe Colorado's talks this winter have more to do with determining Arenado's value, gauging his interest in approving a destination and laying groundwork for a trade this summer.
Adding a backup catcher...
The White Sox have been frequently asked about C James McCann, but they seem content for now to keep him as a backup to Yasmani Grandal. McCann put up 2.3 WAR in 2019, according to FanGraphs.
I still think Josh Phegley is fit for the Mets, who have not been connected to a backup catcher since talk of Robinson Chirinos at the beginning of the offseason.
Phegley is likely to earn around $2 million in 2020. He isn't going to hit for average and he's not an everyday option, but he did hit 12 home runs with 62 RBI in 106 games for the A's last season. More important, he threw out 32 percent of base stealers during his 90 starts, which for the Mets should be the number one reason to consider him.
Have the Mets improved?
The majority of insiders I talk with say (as is) the Mets are a playoff-contending team, despite not making a major addition to their everyday lineup or front end of their rotation. Their biggest weakness in 2019 was their bullpen, which has been upgraded by adding Dellin Betances, but it's difficult to project his contribution because he pitched in only one game last season.
Nevertheless, because of their strong finish in 2019, core talent and bringing in a new coaching staff, there is optimism for what the Mets are capable of doing in 2020.
"They're strong on paper," a front office talent evaluator told me. "They do have more question marks than most teams, though, including Pete Alonso. I expect he'll be fine, but a lot can throw off a second season."
Though most like the addition of first-time leaders Carlos Beltran and Jeremy Hefner, experts do see the experienced middle of the rotation as an area of concern.
"Without Wheeler, and not knowing how to project Porcello, Noah Syndergaard will dictate a lot of their success," the same person added. "I've always liked Steven Matz, but he can be very hit or miss. I just think Syndergaard tips their scale one way or the other."
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is a senior writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. His book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime.