The sell-off started Thursday, when the Mets traded Lucas Duda to the Rays.
"And now it begins," a Mets player said to a reporter after the deal was announced.
He's right... and it's about time.
The Mets need new position players and they'll get the opportunity to reload this winter when seven men from their Opening Day lineup become free agents. By removing these seven players, as well as others, Sandy Alderson should be able to add roughly $50-70 million in player payroll to next year's roster. That's huge, and a major advantage, assuming the right talent is available and he and ownership are comfortable spending each dollar.
That said, in many ways, the offseason has already started, which is why Monday's goal should be to rid the current roster of anyone that is not guaranteed a job at Citi Field in 2018. Duda, who will be a free agent, has already been traded. I expect Asdrubal Cabrera and Addison Reed to be next, with Curtis Granderson getting moved just before Monday's non-waiver trade deadline.
Jay Bruce will also be a free agent. But, I'd like to see the Mets keep him through at least August and September. As I've mentioned earlier, if he signs a multi-year deal with a new team this winter, the compensatory draft pick the Mets would get is likely worth more than whomever is being offered to them in trade for Bruce today. In the meantime, the Mets can play Bruce at first and right field, and continue to try and move him through waivers in August.
As for Cabrera and Granderson, I don't expect the Mets to get much in return. They could try to push, but my sense of the trade market is that they'll end up with something similar (or less) to RHP prospect Drew Smith, who they got from the Rays for Duda. I assume they could get slightly more back if they agree to pay portions of each contract, but -- even at that -- I don't expect much.
Reed will net the biggest return. However, unless Alderson can get the Nationals and Red Sox in to a bidding war, there may be too many teams looking for arms and too many right-handed pitchers available to reshape the farm system. Reed is very good, but he isn't Aroldis Chapman, who the Yankees traded for multiple impact players.
That said, in the event the Mets really want to get proactive and think ahead, I'd love to see them make a move to acquire Denard Span from the Giants. According to ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick, the disappointing Giants are looking to deal Span, who is due $9 million next season with a $4 million buyout (or $12 million option) for 2019.
The Mets need a legit, defensive center fielder. They needed one this season, and they'll need one again next season. They're a pitching-rich team that will enter next year with Gold Glove caliber rookies at shortstop and first base. Instead of shoehorning Michael Conforto up the middle, or inking Lorenzo Cain to an unnecessarily long-term contract, give up a prospect to get Span, who is batting .286 with 33 extra-base hits in just 78 games.
This way, entering the offseason, the Mets will know they can at least go with Yoenis Cespedes, Span and Conforto in the outfield, and Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario on the infield, leaving second, third base, and catcher as holes to fill.
In the end, my hope is that on Tuesday the Mets have cut people and payroll from the roster, opened spots to promote Rosario and Smith, and acquired a few new prospects, most of which are simply useful guys, but one of which will develop in to someone special a few years from now.