The Mets are apparently aiming high in their search for offense this summer, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports wrote late last week. So much so they’ve set their sights on Padres OF Justin Upton and Brewers OF Carlos Gomez to help boost their sub-competitive offense.
Their interest could be to a point where the Mets and Padres have had recent trade discussions, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported on Friday. Those discussions apparently have led the Padres to start scouting players in the Mets minor league system, Heyman wrote last week.
It remains to be seen if the Mets are able to acquire either, as both players will likely require a greater commitment than a group of prospects including Gavin Cecchini, Brandon Nimmo or Michael Fulmer. But for now, Heyman says the Mets remain interested in the star outfielders, although Adam Rubin of ESPN New York debunked some of this, stating the Mets were not in on Upton.
The risk in acquiring Upton now is substantial, although it has nothing to do with the production he would provide the Mets, although he is currently sidelined with oblique tightness.
He can be a free agent following the World Series. If the Mets acquired Upton now, that would disallow the Mets from making Upton a qualifying offer, as a player traded in-season is not eligible to receive such an offer.
So if the Mets send pieces to San Diego to get Upton – and presumably, those pieces would need to be more significant than one of – the Mets run the risk of Upton testing free agency, signing somewhere else, and having neither the player, the prospects or the draft compensation to show for the transaction.
And, if the Mets do not make the playoffs and all of the above come to fruition, then the Mets would have sacrificed a lot of talent for nothing more than a fruitless pennant race.
The Mets could theoretically look to sign Upton long-term if they were to acquire him now. He’s in his age-27 season, he’s a difference-making, right-handed bat with power, all of which are rare commodities to find on the open market in the game today.
Given that, however, Upton has very little reason to limit his market to one team right now versus testing free agency this winter and letting the bidding run it’s course against other teams.
But he’s one of the most intriguing options available to the Mets, and one of the few pending free agents who can provide a true, longer-term solution to their problems. In the short-term, the Mets could (and should) turn a corner outfield spot into a platoon between Curtis Granderson and Michael Cuddyer which would afford a player like Upton a full-time opportunity in the other outfield spot.
That would require a significant, long-term investment from the club, something they have yet to show they’re willing to do outside of David Wright, which took place nearly three years ago.
As for the 29-year-old Gomez, he comes with less short-term risk, as he can’t be a free agent until after the 2016 season. If they were to acquire Gomez, they would be on the hook for about $12-13 million through 2016.
Gomez has taken a step back offensively this season and his stolen bases are down, but he’s still posted a .768 OPS and 109 OPS+ in 65 games in 2015. He’s become and electric player since the Mets originally traded him to the Twins in 2008, featuring a combination of both speed and power from the right side proving hard to come by in the game today. His game of speed and defense would be a good fit for the Mets with their pitching staff and ballpark, although his defense has been just about league average in 2015.
But like Upton, the cost in trade could be more substantial than the Mets are willing to move, especially with the extra year of control which adds value in trade.