Mets minute: Brad Hand, Jackie Bradley Jr., and the Trevor Bauer conundrum

Brad Hand Mets
Free-agent reliever Brad Hand.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Some major components of the New York Mets’ offseason plan could be coming to a head shortly. 

There is just a little over three weeks remaining until pitchers and catchers report to spring training and the Mets still have to address some glaring roster needs. 

Most notably, another bullpen arm and a true No. 1 center fielder leads the list of needs, but more options within the starting rotation also seem to be something that’s gained considerable consideration.

As amNewYork Metro first reported last week, the Mets’ top priorities still appear to be two of the top remaining free agents at their respective positions in center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and reliever Brad Hand. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman further confirmed our report on Friday.

Hand’s decision is expected to come soon, though the Mets have plenty of competition for his signature. Heyman reported on Saturday that the Washington Nationals have “emerged as a potential player” while the Toronto Blue Jays — who won the George Springer sweepstakes last week — have already put in a bid. 

The 30-year-old southpaw would provide another reliable arm for a Mets bullpen that already picked up Trevor May this offseason, but more importantly, he would bring a left-handed option to a stable of relievers that currently consists entirely of righties. 

There is less clarity surrounding a potential pursuit of Bradley in center field. After losing out on Springer, the 31-year-old lefty became the top remaining center-fielding option available on the market and the Mets have shown interest. 

The Philadelphia Phillies, Houston Astros, Colorado Rockies, and the Boston Red Sox — who Bradley has spent his entire MLB career with — are in the hunt as well. 

Bradley brings a stellar glove to center field — something the Mets need — but an inconsistent bat that had a strong 2020 campaign; he slashed .283/.364/.450 (.814 OPS) with seven home runs and 22 RBI in 55 games. 

Other avenues are available for the Mets to address the spot in center. Deesha Thosar of the New York Daily News reported on Thursday that the Mets are “more likely” to sign a platoon option like Albert Almora. 

It’s important to note that the Mets’ No. 5 prospect in their farm system, Pete Crow-Armstrong, is a defensively gifted center fielder with a well-touted bat. According to MLB.com, his estimated time of arrival to the majors will be around 2023. So there is a possibility the Mets could be looking to bolster the position for three or four more years, at most, until the youngster is ready to break through — though that might not necessarily coincide with a “win-now” mentality or an overreliance on prospects properly panning out. 

There is an ever-so-increasing possibility, however, that the Mets pivot from such a plan and go for one last big splash. Multiple reports have disclosed the Mets’ interest in free-agent starting pitcher and 2020 NL Cy Young Award winner, Trevor Bauer, is growing. 

Recent rehashings of unsettling behavior on social media have pundits and personalities alike debating whether or not the Mets should or should not pursue the 30-year-old righty. Bauer incessantly tweeted a female college student in 2019 past the point of harassment after the two began an argument that began with the pitcher bashing Houston Astros star third baseman, Alex Bregman.

The Mets are already dealing with the fallout of former general manager Jared Porter’s firing last week — just 37 days after his hiring — after inappropriate texts toward a female reporter in 2016 were uncovered, prompting many to question the integrity and culture of the Mets.

Should the Mets deem Bauer’s character as an ill fit for the franchise, then the buzz surrounding him should subside rather quickly. 

If they believe he can properly represent the organization, they could be allocating a majority of their remaining available funds under MLB’s luxury tax threshold (approximately $25.3 million) to create one of the most imposing starting rotations in the league alongside Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Marcus Stroman, David Peterson, and Noah Syndergaard — once he returns from his Tommy John surgery rehabilitation in June or July. Though it will open them up to further ridicule. 

It remains to be seen if the Mets truly want to go over that luxury tax threshold, which would open them up to penalties and fines from Major League Baseball. But if they do want to stay under that $210 million figure, signing Bauer would most likely take them out of the running for both Hand and Bradley.