The Mets continue to discuss the possibility of trading for high-profile players, which suggests Brodie Van Wagenen may still be trying to make a "big trade," one MLB insider from each NL division told me last week.
The Mets have been connected in rumor and reports to Cubs 3B Kris Bryant, Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado, Pirates OF Starling Marte and SP Chris Archer, Red Sox OF Mookie Betts and Indians SS Franciso Lindor.
I'm intrigued by all of the above. Here's how I rank them given the cost and upside in production...
No. 1 Target: Mookie Betts
The Red Sox will deal Betts. The Red Sox will not deal Betts. It's been reported both ways, back and forth, since the end of last season. The current popular position is Betts will remain in Boston, where he'll be paid close to $30 million in advance of being a free agent after this season.
I have long believed -- based on people aware of Boston's early offseason goals -- that they'd be open to accepting Brandon Nimmo and Steven Matz, which would mean bringing back no prospects. The other natural fit would be trading Betts straight up for Noah Syndergaard.
The other option would be to send Jeff McNeil and prospects to Boston for Betts and a starting pitcher, such as Nathan Eovaldi, which would allow the Sox to achieve their goal of getting under the luxury tax.
I see another fit: Trading Betts for Edwin Diaz, Dominic Smith and multiple prospects.
To do any of the above, I would need to be confident the Mets will be in a situation that would allow them to slide a blank check to Betts and ink him to a contract extension that keeps him in blue and orange for the bulk of his career. Otherwise, it's not worth the risk.
This entire situation is akin to when the Mets stepped out of character to trade for Mike Pizza and then signed him to a record-breaking deal. To part with the talent needed to get Betts, the Mets would need to do the same. If they do, they will shock baseball, shock their fans, and shake up Citi Field.
No. 2 Target: Nolan Arenado
It was reported Thursday by Jon Morosi of MLB.com that there is a 50/50 chance Arenado gets dealt, with the Rockies "likely" seeking a controllable first baseman or center fielder as part of a trade.
To get him, it has been speculated that Van Wagenen would need to part with Jeff McNeil, who is 27 years old and due to earn close to the league minimum through 2022.
Arenado is the best player in baseball at his position. He's in the middle of an eight-year, $280 million contract that will pay him $35 million in 2020.
He can also opt out of his deal after 2021, at which time he'll be 30 years old.
I don't think I'd make a trade involving McNeil since if I could keep McNeil, put him at third base and sign a free agent or trade for a less-costly corner outfielder. However, if the Rockies are willing to accept Brandon Nimmo instead of McNeil, plus take a top prospect and an affordable, big-league pitcher, such as Steven Matz, I'd do it.
To afford Arenado's salary and also stay under the luxury tax, Van Wagenen would need to find a new home for Jed Lowrie and Jeurys Familia. Otherwise, the Mets will need to exceed the tax for the first time in team history. The penalty is minimum and, in this case, a risk worth taking, especially if they anticipate spending more and exceeding the tax in 2021. If Arenado injects offense and excitement and helps them return to the postseason, it's a penalty and risk worth taking.
No. 3 Target: Kris Bryant
Bryant is an elite third baseman. He can also play corner outfield and first base, which means he gives Van Wagenen options, especially since he also can be insurance for Pete Alonso.
There have been multiple reports out of Chicago stating Bryant is very much available in trade. He's due to earn $18.5 million in 2020. He is due to be eligible for arbitration in 2021, after which he'll be a free agent. However, MLB is currently hearing a case that could make him a free agent after this coming season.
By signing Rick Porcello, Van Wagenen can entertain trading a starting pitcher, especially if he can acquire a mid-rotation starting pitcher in a separate trade. In this reality, to get Bryant, the Mets would almost certainly be asked to part with Noah Syndergaard, who is eligible for free agency after the 2021 season.
Van Wagenen has certainly fantasized about Bryant hitting behind Pete Alonso. To add him, I firmly believe Van Wagenen has to be confident in his path to add someone to the rotation. If there's such a fair replacement available, I'd do the deal.
No. 4 Target: Starling Marte
It can be argued that Nimmo is a better offensive player and similar player in the field to Marte, so it seems to make no sense to trade Nimmo to get Marte.
Marte will earn a reasonable $11.5 million in 2020, after which he will be a free agent unless his team picks up his $12.5 million option for 2021. I'd still rather have Nimmo at near the eague minimum.
I've seen reporters and fans suggest a deal can be had for Marte that only includes Dominic Smith and multiple mid- to upper-level prospects. However, from what I can gather, the Pirates are more likely to reject this package and instead keep Marte, who they can also trade over the summer.
I don't understand why Van Wagenen would want to trade any talent to get Marte, who would increase payroll, when he can keep everyone, including Nimmo, and end up with the same production.
No. 5 Target: Francisco Lindor
Lindor is awesome, but I don't see a deal worth making given the cost and chaos.
I have yet to see a rumor or report that didn't say the Indians will insist on getting back McNeil for Lindor.
My hunch -- based on multiple sources on multiple teams -- is that the Indians will end up keeping Lindor and are discussing him in trade to gauge value and lay groundwork in case they need to move him this summer.
The young shortstop and four-time All Star is due to earn $16.7 million in 2020. He is a free agent after 2021. There has been buzz from Cleveland indicating he might accept a five- or six-year extension if it paid him more than $30 million each season. To date, there is no evidence the two sides are close to a deal.
I'm not trading McNeil to get Lindor because of the bump in payroll and requiring a new home for Amed Rosario (either trading him to another team or moving him to the outfield). However, if -- as speculated by other fans and reporters -- Cleveland would accept Rosario and J.D. Davis and one of the team's top-2 prospects, I'd make the trade. I'm not sure the Indians would, though.
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.