The Mets have not ruled out trading OF Juan Lagares, who has drawn recent interest, reports Mike Puma of the NY Post.
Lagares, who is currently expected to be part of a platoon in center field with Brandon Nimmo, was the subject of trade rumors earlier this offseason.
The 28-year-old Lagares will earn $6.5 million this season and $9 million in 2019, after which he is eligible for free agency.
He hit .250/.296/.354 in 94 games for the Mets last season while limited due to a thumb injury. He was worth 15 DRS in center field in just 566.2 innings.
The Mets are expected to enter the season with Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce as the starting outfielders in left and right field, respectively. Michael Conforto, whose initial expected return date was May 1, is ahead of schedule and expects to make his Grapefruit League debut next week.
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With Brandon Nimmo's strong showing in 2017 and what he's displayed so far in Spring Training, he's earned the right to be the long end of a center field platoon with Lagares. And as a left-handed hitter, that means Nimmo will get the bulk of the at-bats. So where does that leave Lagares?
Lagares is one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball and he's hoping to add more power with a revamped swing. But if Nimmo is the Mets' guy in center field most of the time -- and with Michael Conforto on track for a May 1 return at the latest -- there simply won't be enough at-bats for Lagares as the Mets are presently constructed.
As we saw last season, health is never a given. But even before Conforto returns, Lagares is a bit of a luxury. And when Conforto comes back, it will mean four starting-level outfielders aside from Lagares for three spots -- with Conforto expected to be in center field.
The Mets do have some concern over having Conforto do too much too soon, so they could potentially ease him back in. They could also consider shifting Bruce to first base when Conforto returns, which would make Lagares the fourth outfielder.
So, in a perfect scenario -- for the Mets' offensive potential, but not so much adhering to Bruce's desire to only play first base in an emergency -- the Mets could shift Bruce to first base and have Cespedes, Conforto, Nimmo, and Lagares split time in the outfield. But if that's not in the cards and they remain healhy, dealing Lagares and getting something of value back makes sense.