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Mets kicking tires on former AL Cy Young winner

December 7, 2019

MLB.com is keeping track of all the latest rumors involving the Mets right here.

MLB.com is keeping track of all the latest rumors involving the Mets right here.

Mets engaging with Porcello

Dec. 7: The Mets are talking with free agent starter Rick Porcello, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reports. Porcello's time with the Red Sox is likely at an end after he struggled to a 5.52 ERA across 32 starts in 2019. The former AL Cy Young Award winner has pitched in the Junior Circuit for his entire career, so perhaps a league switch could offer a welcome change of scenery.

New York could use one more quality starter to fill out a rotation featuring Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz. Former Met Zack Wheeler has a deal in place with the rival Phillies.

Mets acquire Marisnick, will they keep going in CF market?

Dec. 5: The Mets acquired outfielder Jake Marisnick from the Astros in a trade for two Minor Leaguers, but does that mean they're done searching for center field reinforcements?

Marisnick could certainly upgrade New York's defense in center; he finished 2019 with 8 Outs Above Average and five defensive runs saved across 733 innings in Houston's outfield. But he's a career .227 hitter at the plate, and he figures to be more of a platoon player as opposed to an everyday starter. New York tried a similar approach with glove-first Juan Lagares last season, but he didn't hit enough to justify an everyday spot, and the Mets still finished among the worst defensive clubs at the position.

New York has been rumored as trade candidates with the Red Sox for center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., and the Pirates for Starling Marte -- both of whom profile more as everyday starters. It stands to reason that the Mets could still pursue players of that caliber while keeping Marisnick as a valuable defender on the bench, or they could flip Marisnick as part of a trade to net one of those stars.

How will Mets answer NL East moves?

Dec. 4: The heat is on the Mets to answer their NL East rivals' big offseason moves, writes MLB.com's Richard Justice.

As if the division wasn't competitive enough already, the Phillies look set to sign Zack Wheeler away from the Mets on a $118 million deal. And the Braves just signed Cole Hamels, after already adding Will Smith and Travis d'Arnaud.

So what can the Mets do to keep up? Justice suggests some starting pitchers and relievers to target.

On the starting pitching side, Madison Bumgarner could be the best option since the Mets don't seem to be in on Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, but the team also hasn't been linked to Bumgarner as of now. New York could also look at mid-tier starters like Rick Porcello or Tanner Roark.

As for the bullpen, there are interesting arms out there. Justice points to Daniel Hudson, Dellin Betances and Blake Treinen as a few to keep an eye on. More >

Mets open to moving Smith in package deal?

Dec. 3: Dominic Smith's name has been part of the trade rumor mill pretty much since fellow Mets first baseman Pete Alonso proved he was ready -- and then some -- for the big leagues early in 2019. With Alonso settled in at the position as the reigning MLB home run champ and NL Rookie of the Year, Smith's role in Flushing is something of a question going forward.

Which could be why the Mets may be willing to part with the 24-year-old former first-round Draft pick, especially if it means packaging him with, say, infielder Jed Lowrie or reliever Jeurys Familia to unload some payroll, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in a story for The Athletic (subscription required).

Lowrie is coming off an injury riddled season in which he played just nine games due to various ailments, and he is owed $9 million in 2020. Familia, meanwhile, was ineffective in '19 (5.70 ERA, 1.73 WHIP) and is on the books for $11 million in both '20 and '21.

Smith also spent a chunk of the year on the injured list with a stress fracture in his left foot, but he showed his offensive ability when healthy (.881 OPS) and is under club control through '24. That combination could make him valuable enough to entice a team to take on a higher-salaried player in addition, thus freeing up some money for the Mets to make other moves.

Mets reportedly among teams interested in Hader

Dec. 2: Although Brewers reliever Josh Hader still has four seasons of team control remaining before free agency, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reports in an article for The Athletic (subscription required) that Milwaukee is open to trading the 25-year-old left-hander.

Rosenthal names the Mets as a "team to watch" when it comes to Hader, and SNY's Andy Martino has heard New York is among the many clubs with interest in the left-hander. Adding an elite reliever would make it easier for the Mets to move Seth Lugo to the rotation to replace free agent Zack Wheeler. Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen knows Hader well, as he represented the pitcher during his time as an agent at CAA.

Just one year ago, the Mets made a blockbuster trade for a top bullpen arm with four years of club control remaining, acquiring Edwin Díaz along with Robinson Canó from the Mariners. That deal cost New York two highly regarded prospects in outfielder Jarred Kelenic and right-hander Justin Dunn, and New York might not have the high-end talent in its farm system to swing a deal for Hader without including a Major Leaguer such as Jeff McNeil.

There are two major reasons why the Brewers are willing to trade Hader, according to Rosenthal. The first is that Hader is arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason, as he is a "Super Two" player. He's going to get increasingly expensive from here and will be at risk of declining after handling a heavy workload in each of the past two years.

"The Brewers need to ask, 'How long will Hader be Hader?,'" Rosenthal writes. "The worst thing that could happen to them would be if Hader’s past workload triggered a decline in his performance as his salary started to rise."

The second reason why Milwaukee could consider moving Hader is that his trade value could be astronomical, especially given this year's weak class of free-agent relievers.

Marte: Playing with Mets would be a great opportunity

Nov. 28: The Mets are eyeing Pirates center fielder Starling Marte, according to MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman, and it appears the interest is mutual.

In a Spanish-language interview that was tweeted Thursday by Héctor Gómez, a reporter from the Dominican Republic, Marte made it clear he'd relish the chance to play for the Mets.

"Los Mets lo tienen todo," said Marte. "Sería una gran oportunidad jugar con ellos." That translates to: "The Mets have it all. It would be a great opportunity to play with them."

With Pittsburgh possibly headed for a rebuild, the 31-year-old Marte is a candidate to be traded this offseason. The outfielder is on an affordable deal, as he's owed $11.5 million in 2020 and can make $12.5 million in '21 if his club option is picked up.

Mets interested in Starling Marte

Nov. 23: The Mets have interest in Pirates center fielder Starling Marte, according to a report from MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman. It's unclear if Marte will be dealt. Heyman notes the Cubs, Reds and Padres among other teams that will be looking for help in center. Mets center fielders hit .229 in 2019, which ranked 25th in the Majors. Marte hit .295, which was second among qualified hitters at the position, behind only Ketel Marte. They're likely to be in the market for a center fielder, with further uncertainty at the position after declining an option on Juan Lagares early in the offseason. Lagares played the majority of the team's games in center in 2019, with Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto among the primary other contributors -- though both are more naturally suited for other outfield positions.

The Pirates picked up Marte's option for 2020 at $11.5 million earlier this offseason. He is under team control through 2021, as there's another option for him that season -- at $12.5 million, or a $1 million buyout.

Report: Mets reach out to Chirinos

Nov. 20: Catcher depth appears to be high on the Mets' shopping list, as the New York Post's Ken Davidoff reports that the club has expressed interest in free-agent backstop Robinson Chirinos. Davidoff adds that New York has also contacted free-agent catcher Drew Butera, a former Mets prospect.

The Mets signed catcher Wilson Ramos last December, but they still appear to be looking for further depth behind the former All-Star. Backup Tomas Nido slashed just .191/.231/.316 in 2019 and will be out of Minor League options in '20. New York reportedly offered star catcher Yasmani Grandal a four-year, $60 million contract last offseason, but the club appears unlikely to seriously pursue the free agent a second time. It could be difficult to convince Chirinos to come aboard in a backup role; he finished this year with a 105 OPS+ and played a major role in the Astros' march to Game 7 of the World Series.

Here's how the Mets could replace Wheeler

Nov. 17: After Zack Wheeler rejected the Mets' one-year qualifying offer this week, the team presumably has at least $17.8 million -- the cost of the QO this year -- to put toward the pitching staff. However, that money isn't guaranteed to go entirely to one pitcher, writes Mike Puma of the New York Post.

The Mets already have four-fifths of their rotation under control for 2020, with two-time reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom joined by Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz.

New York general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has said that Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman could compete to join the starting staff next season after spending 2019 in the bullpen. If the Mets go with Lugo or Gsellman as their No. 5 starter, they could use their resources to sign a pair of relievers. Puma names Will Harris, Daniel Hudson, Drew Pomeranz, Dellin Betances and Craig Stammen as potential targets.

The club also could leave Lugo and Gsellman in the 'pen and sign a veteran to fill the fifth rotation spot. Puma thinks Cole Hamels, Michael Pineda, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley or Iván Nova could fit into the team's budget and still leave room for one of the relievers mentioned above.

Could Mets be bold and target Betts or Lindor?

Nov. 15: Much of the focus early in the offseason tends to be on the numerous free agents, simply because scores of players suddenly flood the market and can be acquired by signing them for money. The trade front, though, tends to be a little slower to develop, but already there are two really big names being bandied about as possible chips ...

Red Sox outfielder and 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts and star Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor.

Given that both players are very much in their primes and under club control only for a short time -- the 27-year-old Betts through 2020 and the 26-year-old Lindor through '21 -- it would seem that teams going all in on next season should be most interested in going after either one.

Enter ... (drum roll, please!) ... the Mets. That might seem like a surprise given that the team didn't make the postseason in '19 and resides in a highly competitive NL East that is home to the World Series-champion Nationals and the Braves, with their incredibly young and talented core coming off two straight division titles.

But there are more than a few reasons why the Mets would make quite a bit of sense as suitors for either Betts or Lindor, as MLB.com's David Adler wrote. More >

Van Wagenen: Syndergaard no longer for sale

Nov. 14: Noah Syndergaard's name has been tied to trade rumors off and on for the better part of the past year, if not longer. As a frontline-caliber starting pitcher with elite velocity, nasty stuff and two more years of club control -- all at the age of 27 -- it's easy to see why other teams have continued to check in with New York about his availability.

Well, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen has rebuffed Syndergaard suitors to this point, and he's making it pretty clear that the right-hander is more or less off limits, indicating that Syndergaard is no longer for sale, according to MLB.com's Anthony DiComo.

Of course, that does imply that Syndergaard -- who finally stayed fully healthy and threw a career-high 197 2/3 innings despite struggling over the first half of 2019 (4.68 ERA, 1.27 WHIP) -- actually might have been gettable at one point.

But with the Mets coming off an 86-win campaign and deploying two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom and NL Rookie of the Year Award winner Pete Alonso, they're clearly going for it in 2020. That means an in-his-prime Syndergaard is once again expected to be a key contributor, if not a driving force, for the Mets -- and that he's no longer a trade chip.

Mets could consider these players for center field

Nov. 13: According to Mike Puma of the New York Post, the Mets are working with two criteria in their search for a new center fielder. First, the player must provide a notable defensive upgrade over Brandon Nimmo. Secondly, the team would prefer a right-handed hitter to balance out the left-handed bats of Michael Conforto, Nimmo and Dominic Smith.

With that in mind, Puma names the Pirates' Starling Marte, the Giants' Kevin Pillar and the Padres' Manuel Margot as potential options.

The Red Sox's Jackie Bradley Jr. could also be available, but he bats from the left side. The same goes for Shogo Akiyama, who is a free agent after nine seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball.

Marte, 31, recorded 23 homers, an .845 OPS and 3.0 FanGraphs' Wins Above Replacement in 2019. He's under control for $11.5 million in 2020 after Pittsburgh picked up his team option, and he has another option for $12.5 million in '21.

The 30-year-old Pillar (21 homers, .719 OPS, 1.5 fWAR in 2019) is a non-tender candidate after earning $5.8 million this season, while the 25-year-old Margot (12 HR, .691 OPS, 1.6 fWAR in '19) is arbitration-eligible for the first time.

Margot was one of the leading outfielders in Statcast's Outs Above Average metric, posting +11 OAA in 2019. Bradley had +6 OAA, while Marte and Pillar each had +2. Nimmo finished with +3 OAA.

Van Wagenen said he's confident Nimmo can handle center field if the Mets don't pick up an alternative.

“Even if we were to acquire a piece for the outfield, we went into last year and we believed Nimmo could be an everyday center fielder,” Van Wagenen said. “It was unfortunate that he dealt with the injuries that he did, but we believe that he can play every day in center field and he’s a valuable piece to our club. We saw the athleticism from Brandon at the end of the year when he came back in September and if we went into the season today, he is our center fielder.”

Sherman: Porcello, Pineda, Wood could bolster Mets' rotation

Nov. 12: The Mets are already brushing up near the first competitive balance tax (CBT) threshold of $208 million as they enter this offseason, and that could inspire them to get "creative" with their roster construction, notes MLB Network insider Joel Sherman.

Writing for the New York Post, Sherman pegs Mets right-hander Seth Lugo as the club's big pitching question in regards to whether he returns to the bullpen or tries his hand at starting once again. If Lugo relieves again, Sherman identifies free agents like Rick Porcello, Michael Pineda and Alex Wood as potentially affordable rotation bolsters to support Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz.

Mets eyeing Betances as relief option

Nov 11: The Mets saw plenty of Dellin Betances in his years starring in the Yankees' bullpen across town. Now they're eyeing the free-agent reliever for themselves, according to a report from SNY's Andy Martino on Monday.

Betances pitched in only one game in 2019, missing almost the whole year with right shoulder and lat injuries before suffering a freak Achilles tear jumping off the mound to celebrate a strikeout in his season debut. But he's expected to be fully recovered in plenty of time before the 2020 season, and when he's healthy, Betances can be one of the most dominant relievers in baseball.

The 31-year-old right-hander recorded five straight 100-strikeout seasons from 2014-18 and was an All-Star four times in that span. The Mets' bullpen, meanwhile, is one of their biggest areas of need this offseason.

Dreaming up Betts-to-Mets trade scenarios

Nov. 11: How does a team acquire a superstar like Betts? How do the Red Sox acquire anything close to equal talent for him?

SNY's Matthew Cerrone attempts to work out the details with hypothetical trade scenarios that put Betts on the Mets, citing conversations he had with MLB insiders last month. His three scenarios include: a) The Mets trading Major Leaguers, like either Brandon Nimmo and Steven Matz as a package or ace Noah Syndergaard; b) Trading Jeff McNeil for Betts and a Red Sox starter, such as Nathan Eovaldi; or c) Dealing closer Edwin Díaz and Dominic Smith in exchange for Betts.

Cerrone also notes that the Red Sox could look elsewhere for a trade, identifying the Braves, Cubs, Cardinals, Nationals and Padres as potential partners.

What will Mets do if Wheeler departs?

Nov. 11: Zack Wheeler will decline the Mets' one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer, according to a report Monday from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman -- but that doesn't mean Wheeler's leaving New York.

The Mets are interested in a multiyear deal to keep Wheeler, per Heyman. If they can't come to an agreement, they'll pursue other options to round out the rotation.

With Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz under control for 2020, the Mets could seek a less expensive replacement starter via trade or free agency. It's even possible that New York's future No. 5 starter is already on the roster.

General manager Brodie Van Wagenen said last week that Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman will be considered for starting roles. The problem is that Lugo and Gsellman have been two of the team's most reliable relievers over the past two years. Lugo was especially valuable in 2019, throwing 80 stellar innings (150 ERA+) out of the bullpen and taking over as the team's closer down the stretch in place of the struggling Edwin Díaz.

If the Mets move Lugo or Gsellman to the rotation, it would create a void in the bullpen that would need to be addressed. That's where the free-agent market comes in, and veteran reliever Daniel Hudson, who closed out Game 7 of the World Series for the Nationals, could be a target.

According to SNY's Andy Martino, members of the Mets' front office met with the agency that represents both Wheeler and Hudson on Monday. Sources told Martino that the Mets were interested in Hudson last offseason but were ultimately scared off by health concerns.

After being released by the Angels in March, Hudson went on to post a 186 ERA+ over 73 innings between the Blue Jays and Nats. The 32-year-old also appeared in nine postseason games, recording a 3.72 ERA with four saves in four chances.

Could this former Mets pitcher be team's pitching coach?

Nov. 10: The Mets are interviewing former pitcher Jeremy Hefner for the team's pitching coach vacancy, according to a report from The Athletic. Hefner appeared in 50 Major League games in his career, all with the Mets in 2012 and 2013. Hefner retired following the 2016 season, when he pitched for the Cardinals in the Minors. In 2017, he began working as an advance scout for the Twins, and in 2019 he became the team's assistant pitching coach.

Hefner is well-versed in analytics, according to the report, and excels at conveying that to current pitchers, as a recently retired player himself.

Another Mookie in Queens? This would be big

Nov. 7: The Mets might have as big a center-field hole as any team in baseball, and MLB Network insider Joel Sherman writes that Mookie Betts is exactly the player to fill that need.

Writing for the New York Post on Thursday, Sherman outlined the Mets’ 2018 woes in center; Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo brought offense but were well below-average defensively, while glove stud Juan Lagares didn’t hit enough to justify an everyday spot in the lineup. New manager Carlos Beltrán has plenty of lineup-card options at the corner outfield spots in 2020, but center field remains a mystery in Queens.

Sherman lists Betts as the “pipe dream” option as an elite bat who could slide over from right field and contribute excellent defense in center, and he poses a hypothetical Betts-for-Noah Syndergaard trade that far surpasses the “splash” terminology. Syndergaard’s salary is roughly one-third of Betts’ next season, and he’s under club control through ’21 as well. Sherman posits that Boston could spin Syndergaard forward in a subsequent trade to acquire younger talent and cut even more payroll.

It’s a showy move that would seem to fit Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s early approach. But is it realistic? We’ll have to stay tuned.

Will Wheeler sign long-term deal with Mets?

Nov. 4: In a widely expected move, the Mets extended a one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer to Wheeler before Monday's deadline. That sets up New York to receive Draft-pick compensation upon Wheeler joining another team, assuming the right-hander rejects the offer. Wheeler has 10 days to make his decision.

General manager Brodie Van Wagenen indicated that the team has had discussions with Wheeler on a long-term contract and will continue that dialogue if the 29-year-old declines the offer. More >

Mets hire Beltrán as manager

Nov. 1: The Mets announced Friday that they have signed Beltrán to a three-year managerial contract with a fourth-year club option, making the Puerto Rico native the first Latino manager in Mets history.

“We are thrilled, as we know our passionate fans will be, to have him back in the family,” Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said in a statement. More >

Rendon, Cole in blue and orange?

Oct. 29: If you heard New York mentioned in connection with Anthony Rendon or Gerrit Cole, your first thought might be "Yankees." But why not the Mets?

MLB Network insider Joel Sherman argues in an article for the New York Post that the Mets should be thinking big in free agency. Rendon and Cole are as big as it gets.

General manager Brodie Van Wagenen "wants the Mets to reach large-market behemoth status," Sherman writes. To do that, "the Mets should be in the forefront for the two best free agents" -- Cole and Rendon, who'd be perfect fits for the Mets.

"Cole and Rendon are great," Sherman writes. "The Mets have a need for both."

Third base might be the biggest position question mark on the Mets' roster. Rendon is a superstar there. Meanwhile, pair Gerrit Cole with Jacob deGrom in the rotation and the Mets have arguably the best starting pitching duo in the game.

They'd even have the flexibility to, for example, trade Noah Syndergaard if they got Cole, or a surplus position player -- maybe one of the trio of Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto -- if they got Rendon. That would allow them to address even more needs.

Does Wheeler deserve similar deal to Corbin's?

Oct. 23: Zack Wheeler is set to enter free agency this offseason, and there's a case to be made that his performance merits a deal in the range of Patrick Corbin's contract with the Nationals (six years, $140 million).

In breaking down Wheeler's value, Tim Britton of The Athletic (subscription required) points out that the right-hander's FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement total over the past two seasons was 8.9. In the two years prior to hitting the open market in 2018, Corbin had an identical fWAR figure.

Wheeler also compares favorably to some other pitchers who landed similar contracts in free agency. Before he signed a six-year, $155 million contract with the Cubs in 2015, Jon Lester had 8.7 fWAR over '14-15. Johnny Cueto joined the Giants on a six-year, $130 million contract shortly after Lester inked his pact with Chicago. In '14-15, Cueto's fWAR was 8.5.

What could hurt Wheeler's stock, in Britton's view, is the 29-year-old's injury history. Wheeler made 60 starts over the past two seasons, but before that he missed all of 2015-16 and started only 17 games in '17.

Corbin also had the benefit of being the top pitcher on the market in a thin year for free-agent starters. This offseason, Wheeler's counterparts will include Gerrit Cole, Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Jake Odorizzi and possibly Stephen Strasburg.

Britton considers it more likely Wheeler will get a three- or four-year deal, with a salary in the range of $54 million to $64 million, than one for five years.

With Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz under control for 2020, the Mets could move on from Wheeler, though they will likely make him a one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer to put themselves in position to receive Draft-pick compensation if he departs.