Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen told reporters at the Winter Meetings last offseason that he wanted to acquire a tried-and-true, everyday center fielder. He went so far as to mention then-free agent A.J. Pollock by name when indicating the type of player he felt the team needed.
In the end, Pollock inked a five-year deal to join the Dodgers, while the Mets mostly used Juan Lagares in center field this season (where he was worth -2 DRS) while also giving time to Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and others.
If the Mets are again in the market for a center fielder this offseason, the Red Sox could come into play...
Boston outfielder J.D. Martinez is able to opt out of his current contract in November and return to the open market. Their star outfielder, Mookie Betts, is eligible to be a free agent after next season, when he is expected to try and top Bryce Harper's $330 million deal with the Phillies.
In a talk Monday with reporters, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said it will be difficult to keep both players, field a competitive team and also meet his goal of getting below the 2020 payroll tax.
This obviously kicked off speculation that the Sox might soon trade Betts, who has mostly played right field the past few years. He entered the league as a center fielder.
I spoke with one Boston source, two rival executives, and a player agent. All said they expect Betts to be on the Red Sox next season, regardless of Martinez's contract status.
However, if the Red Sox are again struggling in the standings next season, Betts may very well get dealt before the trade deadline.
That said, every player is available for the right price...
To get Betts, who is the first player ever to win an MVP, Gold Glove, batting title, Silver Slugger and World Series in the same year, it will cost big-league talent in the offseason. He'll likely net prospects next summer.
In addition to the Padres, Braves, Cardinals and Astros, league insiders say the Mets, Reds, Nationals and Brewers could be teams capable of putting together an appealing package for Betts.
Therefore, to get Betts for just one season, I'm told Boston will need to replace him in the lineup, add an affordable, team-controlled, mid-rotation starter and bring in at least two top-100 prospects.
In talks with talent evaluators, they suggested OF Joc Pederson and RHP Kenta Maeda as the type of big-league talent the Red Sox would likely ask for if the Dodgers expressed interest in Betts.
Maeda, though 31 years old, is under contract through 2023 and earning no more than $3.1 million each season. Pederson, who just put up 3.0 WAR and is a free agent after next season, will likely earn close to $20 million less than Betts in 2020.
Based on the above, I'm thinking Brandon Nimmo and Steven Matz would be as close as the Mets get to Pederson and Maeda, though that comparison is hardly apples to apples.
With Ronny Mauricio, Andres Gimenez and Brett Baty, the Mets have three top-100 prospects, but it's hard to imagine Van Wagenen trading two of them given how many top prospects he has already dealt in less than a year since taking over as GM.
The point is, the Mets probably have the goods to get Betts. But it's a lot, especially for a guy that would be switching leagues, going to a pitcher's park to play in front of hungry fans in the world's biggest city, all while he's eyeing his first time as a free agent.
The easier move for Van Wagenen would be to keep Nimmo and Matz, put Jeff McNeil at third base, and put Michael Conforto or Brandon Nimmo in center field.
However, the hot stove season is for big ideas, some of which sometimes come to fruition. And whether they happen or not, Van Wagenen seems to like big ideas, so let the rumors begin...