If the New York Mets swing and miss on signing George Springer, they can look toward adding any of these four options.
As the New Year begins, the New York Mets find themselves in a prime position in the free agency market. The team is a contender to sign one (or possibly both) of reigning NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer and three-time All-Star center fielder George Springer.
The latter of these options represents a massive need for the Mets. The team, which deployed a struggling Brandon Nimmo as their starting CF in 2020, must find a major-league caliber defender to take over the reins in 2021 and beyond.
The Mets would be wise to have a backup plan to pivot toward in the event they are unable to land their top prize centerfielder. Here are four options from free agency and the trade market that would be sensible fits in NYC,
Jackie Bradley Jr (Free Agent)
Jackie Bradley Jr is the most logical backup plan for New York. While he does carry the same offensive pedigree as a player like Springer, JBJ is a Gold Glove-caliber defender with a phenomenal range and glove. He would immediately bring stability to the team’s centerfield position.
He, unlike other names on this list, is also a free agent. This means that the Cohen-era Mets could use their newfound financial flexibility to add the former Red Sox star without being forced to part with prospects or major league assets.
Bradley’s career .239 batting average would bring back shades of the Juan Lagares/Jake Marisnick purgatory that has plagued the franchise for years. However, unlike the two defensive-minded predecessors, Bradley is a former All-Star (2016), ALCS MVP, and World Series Championship. At just 30 years old, he could also continue to play his natural position for the next few seasons.
Losing out on Springer would hurt. However, should the price reach an unreasonably high point, the Mets should be thrilled to welcome JBJ as their new centerfielder.
Starling Marte (Trade)
Welcome back old friend! Starling Marte was in constant rumors as a potential CF solution for the Mets before a deadline deal sent him from Arizona to Miami in 2020. However, the veteran is already being mentioned as a potential trade candidate option again.
I was a proponent of a Marte-to-the-Mets trade in 2019. While the waters have muddied a bit due to the veteran’s age (he is now 32 years old) and the fact that he plays for an NL East rival, there may still be value in a deal.
Marte played as a starting centerfielder in all 61 appearances in 2020. While he may be showing signs of slowing down, he would be an upgrade at the position as a well-rounded CF. His contract, which expires after 2021, would also make him an ideal single-season rental. If the price were right.
Kevin Kiermaier (Trade)
The lifetime member of the Tampa Bay Rays has been involved in trade speculation for the past several seasons. At just 30-years-old, the veteran is the closest thing to a Bradley Jr-typed player available on the trade market.
He is an everyday centerfielder who would bring a solid combination of defensive stability and offensive production (he holds a .248 lifetime average) to the table.
The Rays would likely insist on acquiring some of the Mets farm system talent in exchange for their longest-tenured player. However, should the Mets be unable to solve their CF dilemma in free agency, Kiermaier would be well worth consideration.
Kevin Pillar (Free Agent)
This final player serves only as a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency option. Pillar is a veteran outfielder who has played the majority of his career at centerfielder. In 2020, he started 27 of his 50 appearances at the position.
The 32-year-old would instantly become the most capable centerfielder on the depth chart. However, his combination of age and injury history should make teams wary that he may be ready to make the transition from center to a corner outfield position. The Mets have too many of these types of players as it stands.
Pillar only makes sense if the team exhausts most of their recourses on a star like Trevor Bauer, and Springer and Bradley each land elsewhere. Pillar represents the last viable option available in free agency. He could help bring stability to the position as a platoon player. But signing him as the primary remedy for the Mets’ center fielder conundrum would feel like a massive underachievement.
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Who would you like to see if the Mets miss out on Springer?