Teams remain interested in trading for OF Juan Lagares, who the Mets have not ruled out dealing, Mike Puma reported earlier this week in the NY Post.
The way it stands, Lagares is expected to be part of a consistent platoon in center field with Brandon Nimmo, at least until Michael Conforto returns from the disabled list. However, with it looking like Conforto could be back before his original May 1 target date, and given how well Nimmo is playing this spring, I wonder if the Mets are now circling back with teams once interested in Lagares.
If you recall, the Mets reportedly talked with teams interested in Lagares earlier this winter as part of an effort to add money to their budget for other acquisitions.
Lagares, who worked with J.D. Martinez's hitting instructor, Craig Wallenbrock, this past offseason, will earn $6.5 million in 2018 and $9 million in 2019, after which he can be a free agent.
In 20 at-bats this spring since returning from a tight hamstring, Lagares has four hits and a .273 OBP. It's concerning, because Lagares has missed nearly 50 percent of the team's games in the two years since winning a Gold Glove, after which he signed a lucrative contract extension. To say he has lost momentum in his career would be an understatement. And yet, due to a strong finish last season, continued outstanding fielding and a potentially crowded outfield, Lagares is expendable on the Mets and has value to other teams. So, talking trade makes sense...
Also, anyone that has watched him knows that Lagares does not need to be J.D. Martinez, though that would be amazing. Instead, as I've said before, he simply needs to pick up roughly 20 to 30 more hits, half of which need to be doubles. If he does that, he's a .260 hitter with 40 extra base hits, a Gold Glove fielder and an elite, all-around center fielder.
The thing is, as we know, to do that, he must remain healthy enough to be on field, which he's again struggled to do so far in 2018.
That said, if the Mets can find a trade partner willing to take on his salary in return for very little, it could unclog their outfield, give Nimmo center field and create space for when Conforto returns. Plus, give Sandy Alderson roughly $6-7 million more to spend on talent before Opening Day.
The buzz in camp indicates that left-handed reliever Matt Purke, who is impressing Callaway with his groundball-inducing splitter, will be the second left-handed reliever on the Opening Day roster. However, while talented, Purke is very hit-or-miss given his track record.
Therefore, if the Mets can move Lagares and free up capital, I would like to see them immediately use it to sign a useable arm in the bullpen.
Free-agent Trevor Cahill, 30, who has some experience in relief and pitches well to lefties, makes a certain amount of sense and likely fits in to Alderson's limited budget. However, for another $10 million, I'd love to see the Mets just go for it and ink free-agent closer Greg Holland, especially since Jeurys Familia and AJ Ramos are eligible to be free agents after this season.
Holland, who held left-handed batters to a .157 average last season, will be 32 years old this season. He started the winter wanting a five-year deal, though experts always predicted he would get three.
Wade Davis -- the winter's other prominent closer -- was signed early for three years and $54 million by Holland's former team, the Rockies. So I assume Holland's agent, Scott Boras, is probably still pushing for a large contract, but that looks less and less realistic here on March 14.
The Cardinals, Cubs, Angels, D-backs, Nationals, and Phillies all seem like they should or could have interest in Holland. However, the Cubs, Angels, and Nationals have all said closer is not a top priority, especially at this late date. And, the Cardinals and Phillies reportedly have little money left to spend, so I am not sure Holland's market is all that hot.
I'm sure he has multiple, unexciting one-year offers on the table from any number of the above t teams. However, with Andrew Miller, Familia, Ramos, and Craig Kimbrel due to be free agents after this season, does Holland really want to compete with them on the open market, especially considering he'll be 33 years old?
That said, I bet Holland would agree to join the Mets for two years and $24 million, so long as there are incentives and a possible option to pepper his ego and further line his agent's pockets.
In Holland, Familia, Ramos, Blevins, Swarzak and Paul Sewald, the Mets would have the organization's best bullpen in recent memory and potentially this year's best in the National League.
However, given that Alderson's payroll is set to be more than projected, despite being around the same level it was a year ago, to get Holland, he'll have to free up spending cash. And, to do that, he'll have to move a big-league contract. And, based on the reporting, Lagares is his best and most attractive shot to make it happen...
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!