George Springer won’t be heading to Queens, after all.
The 31-year-old star free-agent center fielder reportedly agreed to a six-year, $150 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays late Tuesday night, meaning the New York Mets will have to look elsewhere for a natural, No. 1 option at the position.
It was a disappointing end to a tumultuous day for the franchise, which fired general manager Jared Porter early Tuesday morning after it was discovered that he sent lewd and explicit text messages to a female reporter back in 2016 when he worked with the Chicago Cubs.
Springer was by far the best center fielder available on the market and his presence in the Mets’ lineup would have made it an even more imposing unit. However, the $25 million in average annual salary that Springer chose with Toronto would have thrown a significant wrench into the Mets’ plans.
For a team that needs to find another bullpen arm — preferably left-handed — more starting pitching depth, and possibly a better defensive option at third base to go with the need in center field, shelling out that kind of cash for Springer would have made it impossible to address those other needs.
They also need to come up with long-term extensions for right fielder Michael Conforto and the newly-acquired star shortstop, Francisco Lindor — along with the likes of Noah Syndergaard.
According to Spotrac, the Mets are approximately $25.3 million under Major League Baseball’s luxury tax threshold of $210 million. A deal that large for Springer would have withheld the team from checking off those other boxes unless they were willing to go over the luxury tax and pay the necessary penalties.
With Porter out as GM, team president Sandy Alderson and the current staff which is now headed most notably by assistant general manager, Zack Scott, will try to navigate the rest of the offseason to fill some of those final needs.
A source confirmed with amNewYork Metro that the Mets are not finished trying to make moves this winter despite the shakeup in the front office along with the loss of the Springer sweepstakes.
The most likely scenario, from their perception — which is not a direct reflection of the front office’s — is an increased pursuit of center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and left-handed reliever Brad Hand.
Hand has long been linked with the Mets with varying degrees of interest being reported in recent weeks. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and SNY’s Andy Martino reported earlier that a deal was nearing completion before walking it back, saying things were not close, after all.
The Mets currently don’t have a left-handed reliever listed on their depth chart and Hand has been solid over the last five seasons, sporting a 2.70 ERA with 104 saves and a WHIP of 1.066.
Bradley doesn’t provide the same kind of offensive punch as Springer does, but he is one of the better defensive center fielders in the game. The 30-year-old also provided a glimpse of offensive improvement, slashing .283/.364/.450 (.814 OPS) with seven home runs and 22 RBI in 55 games last season with the Boston Red Sox.
Acquiring Bradley would make it an all-left-handed outfield alongside Conforto and Brandon Nimmo — who is expected to shift from center field to his natural left field.
The right-handed Enrique Hernandez, most recently of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is also a free-agent option that the Mets had considered in recent weeks, but a source confirmed MLB Network’s Jon Heyman’s earlier speculation that the team’s interest is unknown after the firing of Porter.