Mets-Realmuto rumor mill continues to stir
NEW YORK -- After the Mets completed their trade for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz this week, one common refrain was that they no longer had enough prospects in their system to tempt Miami in a deal for All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto.
Whether that's true may not actually matter. The Mets are maintaining dialogue with the Marlins on Realmuto, according to multiple sources, using big league talent as a lure. No trade appeared imminent as of Tuesday night, and one source called the speculation "just talk." But the New York Post reported that the Mets are "seriously considering" trading outfielder Brandon Nimmo to acquire Realmuto.
For a team with uncertainty at multiple positions, such a deal would force them to make other moves to compensate, either in free agency or via trades. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen has also been vocal in saying he wants to keep the Mets' core of young, controllable players -- most notably Nimmo, Michael Conforto and Amed Rosario, as well as most of the rotation -- intact.
"But if we had a chance to get another guy that can impact the middle of our lineup," Van Wagenen said Tuesday night on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM, "whatever position he plays, we'd be foolish not to explore it."
Realmuto is widely considered that type of player. After his agent -- Jeff Berry, a former Van Wagenen colleague at CAA -- expressed his desire for Realmuto to be traded last February, the catcher responded with a career year in Miami. Over 125 games, he hit .277 with 21 homers and an .825 OPS. Realmuto is also widely considered a strong thrower and pitch framer.
Also relevant, Realmuto is right-handed, unlike top-of-the-order hitters Nimmo, Conforto and Cano. Realmuto would add both balance and stability behind the plate for the Mets, who have not received the latter from oft-injured Travis d'Arnaud.
Late last week, the Mets tendered d'Arnaud a contract despite uncertainty that he will recover from Tommy John surgery in time for Opening Day. Although d'Arnaud was a key contributor to New York's National League pennant run in 2015, he has hit just .244/.297/.690 in 191 games since that time.
"We like both of our catchers," Van Wagenen said Tuesday. "We went into this saying if we could improve our defense behind the plate, then we would look to do that, but we're not going to do that at the expense of making our team better. Travis, we're assuming he's going to come back healthy, and when his bat is behind the plate, it's a competitive advantage for us.
"If we have to be open-minded or if we have an opportunity to be productive in our pursuits, then we'll do so."
The GM went on to say d'Arnaud would be capable of playing left field, first base or third base if the Mets acquire another catcher -- and they might need him to if Realmuto is the choice. Should the Mets trade Nimmo, they would have just one outfielder on their 40-man roster (Conforto) who ended last season healthy. Plenty of replacement options exist on the free-agent market, from superstar Bryce Harper to standout center fielder A.J. Pollock, and on down the list. But only a few boast as much upside as Nimmo, a 25-year-old who broke out with a .263/.404/.483 slash line, 17 home runs, eight triples, 28 doubles and nine stolen bases in 2018.
Following Cano's press conference on Tuesday, Van Wagenen quipped that Nimmo will have ample opportunities to score runs in 2019, hitting ahead of Cano and Conforto. As he spoke those words, Nimmo was in a different part of Citi Field, preparing to play Santa for the Mets' annual holiday party. He laughed off the idea that the Santa suit is "cursed," despite the fact that many who have worn it have either suffered major injuries or been traded away the following season.
"We'll knock on wood," Nimmo said. "We won't say anything yet because next year's important. But I just believe there's other things that go into [my future], rather than being Santa."