Now that the trade deadline has passed and the Mets have acquired Jay Bruce, it means that their machinations to change their 2016 roster are pretty much over. There will be call-ups and demotions and perhaps some kind of parade of formerly-walking wounded that leaves the disabled list, but the heavy work has been done. For the final two months of the season, this is basically it for the Mets.
Just as interesting, however, is what the Bruce trade means for 2017 and what that team could look like. That was one of the reasons the Mets dealt for him now. He’s under contract for next season and that was of great importance in their willingness to deal Dilson Herrera for him. It gives the Mets a glut of corner outfielders for two more months and then some questions to work around next year.
Trying to make sense of what the Mets outfield could look like next year is a fun game to play. Bruce is a given, obviously. He’s the type of player the Mets love–he hits home runs and who gives a damn about a defense. And he provides insurance for Yoenis Cespedes. If Cespedes opts out–and as likely the best player to hit free agency this year he
probably definitely opts out–there’s probably no way the club could get a player of Bruce’s ilk for the $13 million he’s set to get next year.
They’ll also have to pay Curtis Granderson $15 million and that’s not a steal. He is still an above-average offensive player but he’ll be 36 in 2017 and could continue his eroding production. Though the Mets aren’t actually at a place to just give up on competent and worthwhile hitters, it could make some sense to see what the trade market bears for him. If a team doesn’t want to pay dozens of millions of dollars for Josh Reddick or Mark Trumbo in free agency, or try to wrangle in Jose Bautista’s reportedly obscene demands, or isn’t an American League team that also put Carlos Beltran at designated hitter, then absorbing Granderson’s remaining contract isn’t a bad idea. It’s at least something for the Mets to explore, not only for the payroll flexibility it would give them–take that phrase as you will based on your trust and opinion of the Wilpons–but possibly give them at least something for the farm system.
Of course, it would also open up a window for Michael Conforto. Though he’s had a rocky season, he is still just 23 and highly talented. If he’s healthy and back to his 22-year-old self, he could be the lineup mainstay the Mets hoped he would be this year.
With Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares, the Mets would also have the outfield depth they seek and at least one center fielder. Lagares presents an interesting case though. By the start of next season, he’ll be two years removed from the Gold Glove gold standard he was defensively. He’s obviously injury prone and can’t be trusted to last a full season. And his contract begins to escalate. He’ll make $4.5 million in 2017, then $6.5 million, then $9 million. The Mets have never seen that deal as too healthy to be traded but it would become harder with every passing year.
Nimmo would also make an interesting trade candidate. Nimmo plus two others allegedly got the deal done for Bruce this week before an injury issue derailed that version of the deal. Perhaps that was under the pressure of the deadline or maybe it speaks to how flawed Bruce actually is, but it could also point to the asset the Mets have in hind to augment the 2017 team for a player who doesn’t seem have a guaranteed everyday role at this time. Maybe he could even help the Mets get a second baseman for next year in case the idea of Jose Reyes or Gavin Cecchini doesn’t excite you.
For now this all speculation but it does add another layer to the Bruce deal. The Mets still have an open window next season and he will play a role. His acquisition will lead to some tough decisions this offseason, however.
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