Do the Mets and Yankees matchup in a deal for Brett Gardner?
The Mets are seeking a left-handed bat to complement Juan Lagares in centerfield, with hopes that such a player combined with growth from Michael Conforto, a full season from Travis d’Arnaud, and a more consistent presence from David Wright could help account for the power lost by the likely departure of Yoenis Cespedes.
In free agency, the Mets have been linked to Denard Span, and Dexter Fowler is also a player the Mets have expressed early interest in, although Fowler received a qualifying offer which makes his signing less likely.
Meanwhile, the Yankees acquired OF Aaron Hicks from the Twins last week, leading to speculation they could move the older and more expensive Brett Gardner in a deal at some point this winter, especially as they endeavor to avoid adding payroll with a preference of cutting payroll.
On Friday, Mark Feinsand of the Daily News reported the Yankees and Cubs were talking about a deal involving Gardner and SS Starlin Castro, although Jon Heyman of CBS Sports said there was no talk of such a deal, stating the Yankees preference is to add starting pitching if they are to move Gardner this winter.
The Mets have an excess in starting pitching, although GM Sandy Alderson and assistant GM John Ricco have said publicly they will not be moving their four healthy young starters.
But that doesn’t mean the Mets wouldn’t consider moving Zack Wheeler, who won’t be ready to pitch until mid-season, and might not be 100 percent until April, 2017.
The Mets have said they’re not actively shopping Wheeler this winter, but they’re not ruling out the possibility he could get dealt if the right deal comes along.
Could such a deal involve the 32-year-old Garnder?
That seems unlikely, according to John Harper of the Daily News.
Gardner does fit the criteria of what the Mets are looking for. He’s a left-handed bat who can play both left and center field. But he’s in the second year of a four-year, $52 million contract in which he will earn $13 million in 2016, $12 million in 2017, $11 million in 2018, and either have a $12.5 million club option for 2019 exercised or be bought out for $2 million.
In addition, according to Harper, the Mets seem wary of dealing Wheeler to the Yankees and have him succeed there.
“You wouldn’t want to see Wheeler turn into a Cy Young winner in your own backyard,” a club source told Harper.
That’s certainly a factor, but what makes Gardner valuable today – his speed and his defense – could begin to diminish as he enters his age-33 season in 2016. And with a salary of $13 million, the Mets might be able to find better value at a similar cost in free agency all without dealing Wheeler.
He’s certainly a gamer, however. Gardner battled a hand injury all year long and still put up a respectable .742 OPS and 106 OPS+ while being worth 11.7 wins above replacement over the last three years. And Citi Field along with the big ballparks in the National League East could certainly play to his current strengths.
But unless the Yankees add another player to help water down Gardner’s salary – and they don’t have many appealing pieces among those they’d even consider moving – it just doesn’t seem like a natural fit for a trade.