With Nimmo in demand, Mets prepare to pivot

December 7th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- has been a visible presence at the Winter Meetings, flying here to meet with the significant number of teams interested in his services. The strategy by Nimmo’s agent, Scott Boras, makes sense. As one of baseball’s most gregarious players, Nimmo knows how to charm a room.

But even Boras acknowledged Tuesday that the sell job might not be necessary.

“I just sit back and listen to [executives] glow about how much he would improve their team,” Boras said of Nimmo, who produced an .800 OPS with positive defensive metrics in the outfield over a career-high 151 games.

“I think everybody in this game who goes and looks at their center-field position, when they evaluate it, you’ll find that you get a substantial add with Nimmo,” Boras continued. “And then when you look at your offensive category, having a leadoff hitter with a near .400 OBP who can score from first base, who really gives you almost double the power of a normal center fielder in today’s game, he really is in a unique place.”

Boras is known for such bombastic bluster. But in Nimmo’s case, the Mets understand that the interest from multiple teams -- the free-spending Dodgers and Yankees are among those that have been linked to him -- is probably real. Discussions with multiple members of the Mets' organization have revealed a general pessimism that Nimmo will return to New York. During his media junket on Tuesday, manager Buck Showalter all but talked about Nimmo in the past tense, saying it’s “going to be a challenge” to replace him at the leadoff spot.

“Of course we’d like to have him,” Showalter added later. “He had a post-up, good physical year where, for whatever reason, he seemed to get through a lot of things that have been a challenge in the past, that didn’t snowball into something where he had to sit out a lot of games. … Brandon got better every year he played. He improved. So somebody will get a good person and a good player. We hope it’s us. But if not, we have to be ready to pivot and move in another direction.”

One possible alternative flew off the board on Tuesday afternoon, when the Cubs reportedly agreed to terms with 2019 National League MVP Cody Bellinger. Another outfielder, Mitch Haniger, is headed to San Francisco. But the Mets still have options outside of Nimmo, including a reunion with or a free-agent deal with . Both are more comfortable at a corner than in center, which is fine given ’s versatility. It’s not New York's preference to move the 34-year-old Marte back to his old position, but it is willing to do so given the dearth of capable free-agent center fielders.

After Nimmo, there is a significant drop-off in quality on the market, which is why Nimmo has been so popular at the Meetings. That, of course, plays directly into the hands of Boras, an agent famous for dragging out negotiations until teams grow desperate. If Nimmo’s deliberations drag into late December or even January, it would put the Mets at risk of having to choose between him or no one. That explains their interest in Conforto and Benintendi, even if those two aren’t as snug of a defensive fit. A willingness to sign sooner is important.

For now, the Mets will continue monitoring the market for outfielders while also pursuing starting pitchers and relievers on parallel tracks. Even if a Nimmo reunion is far from a guarantee, team officials are “holding out hope,” in Showalter’s words, that the market dynamics will fall in their favor.

“We’d like to have them all back, but it just doesn’t work that way,” Showalter said of his team’s many free agents. “You want what’s best for them. But you also selfishly want what’s best for the club.”