While Jay Bruce has long been assumed to be the most likely Mets outfielder to be traded away this offseason, a source this week said that Curtis Granderson has received more interest in trade talks thus far.
That has left the Mets open to the possibility of dealing Granderson instead of Bruce, with their decision hinging partly on potential returns.
Either way, after re-signing Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $110 million contract, the top priority for the Mets is now reducing their glut of lefthanded hitting corner outfielders. And team officials are expecting an uptick of trade talks regarding both Bruce and Granderson leading up to next week’s winter meetings.
A deal could bring back prospects or even a controllable bullpen piece for the Mets, who could use some added depth with closer Jeurys Familia likely facing a suspension related to a domestic violence arrest earlier this offseason.
The Mets hope to capitalize on a relatively thin free agent market for corner outfielders with Bruce and Granderson.
Both are relatively affordable alternatives as they enter the final season of their respective contracts. Bruce is owed $13 million next year and Granderson will make $15 million, price tags that will likely expand the pool for their services. According to sources, both have attracted interest from multiple clubs. And on Tuesday, ESPN reported that the Blue Jays have interest in making another run at Bruce, as they had attempted last spring.
Meanwhile, outfielder Michael Conforto has also drawn interest in the trade market, though the Mets have little interest in moving him, according to sources.
As they explored alternatives before Cespedes’ signing, the Mets discussed a trade with the Tigers for righthanded hitting outfielder J.D. Martinez, sources said. But those talks fizzled when the Tigers asked for Conforto in return.
Conforto, 23, is coming off a rough season that culminated in his demotion to the minor leagues. But the Mets appear ready to make Conforto a part of the outfield going forward, part of the reason they have no intention of pursuing free agent outfielders such as Dexter Fowler.
In any case, the Mets intend to keep Cespedes in leftfield, where he is a gold-glove caliber defender.
Should Granderson be traded, Conforto would be lined up to platoon with Juan Lagares in centerfield, leaving Bruce in rightfield. If Bruce is moved, Granderson would be used again in centerfield.
The Mets expect payroll once again to wind up in the $140 million range. That figure will be pushed up to $150 million once Cespedes’ signing becomes official, though moving either Bruce or Granderson would bring the Mets back down to their desired range.
Granderson, 35, is entering the final year of his contract. He is coming off a 30-homer season, his highest total since 2012. He hit .237/.335/.464, posting another solid season in his third year with the Mets. Though he is older than Bruce, Granderson’s power on the field and sterling reputation off it has made him an attractive trade target.
Bruce, 29, hit 33 homers in a season in which he was traded from the Reds to the Mets at the deadline. He hit .250/.309/.506, though he hit just .219 after the trade.
But rival executives predicted that Bruce’s price tag in a limited free-agent market would present the Mets with plenty of suitors in a trade.
Trading Bruce or Granderson remains one of the few items left on the Mets’ to-do list. At catcher, they will likely stick with Travis d’Arnaud. In the bullpen, they need to bring in a lefty specialist and more depth to help endure Familia’s absence.