Despite many fans’ number one free agent target recently coming off the board, in George Springer, the New York Mets still have a few other options left to consider in the market to address their center field issue. Rumors about acquiring players such as Jackie Bradley Jr. or Albert Almora have been circulating about and speculated on by the media as being possible solutions to our defensive outfield dilemma.
But I believe there is an even more intriguing option that remains a possibility should the Milwaukee Brewers be open to making a deal. And that is the possibility of engaging in a trade for two time All-Star centerfielder Lorenzo Cain.
Lorenzo Cain opted not to finish out and play the majority of the 2020 season due to concerns about the covid-19 pandemic. This should make him an even more enticing potion to the Mets, as they would now be trading for a ball player who is coming off of ample rest and is also already durable when he does decide to play everyday. Lorenzo’s durability is evident from the fact that he started in 140 or more games in the outfield in four out his last five full seasons from 2015 to 2019.
Even more impressive, Cain plays an elite centerfield defensively; posting a .985 career fielding percentage with a career centerfield DRS of over 105 and a career WAR of 29.1. In those respects he is just as good, if not better, than either Jackie Bradley Jr. or Albert Almora defensively despite slowing down a step since 2018.
Cain could be the center fielder the Mets have been waiting for
The Mets have sorely lacked a reliable center fielder with ample range and a reliable glove that can roam around in center and patrol the gaps with the same effectiveness and authority as a Carlos Beltran once did. I believe Lorenzo Cain would solve that problem if he were brought on board.
Offensively, Cain is a career .288 hitter in 11 Major League seasons, where he’s been averaging 27 doubles, 55 RBI and 23 stolen bases a year from 2014 to 2019. He will help balance a Mets line up that is slightly more left handed than right handed currently as constructed. I believe he would make an effective number two hitter behind Jeff McNeil or a decent number six hitter batting behind Michael Conforto.
Salary-wise, Lorenzo Cain still has two years left on his contract he signed with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2018 and he is expected to earn $17 million in 2021 and $18 million in 2022. This salary amount would still currently keep the Mets under the luxury tax limit but would make it harder for them to sign a legit number two starter behind deGrom, a player the caliber of Trevor Bauer.
To work around this and still give the Mets some cap room flexibility should they want to pursue another player after trading for Cain, the ball club would have to include Jeurys Familia and his $11 million salary somehow in the trade deal back along with a few decent caliber prospects.
The Brewers might be willing to do this trade for the same reason many teams would be willing to trade some of their high priced star players this off season. To recover from the financial hit they took in 2020 due to the pandemic. Cain will turn 35 sometime this year and currently has the highest annual salary on the Brewers, so it would only be natural to think that he would be the one to go if they had to trade somebody to shed payroll.
Adding prospects such as Mark Vientos and a potential starter in Thomas Szapucki along with Jeurys Familia could be enough to acquire the gold glove centerfielder. It may also leave enough room under the luxury tax threshold to sign Trevor Bauer and fully complete the Mets offseason transformation under new owner Steve Cohen.
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Not being able to acquire the talents of George Springer has certainly got a lot of Mets fans feeling down. But a little creativity and looking at other opportunities brought about by the lack of revenue the pandemic has riddled down on other teams may be a silver lining the Mets have been looking for. If Sandy Alderson can get the Brewers GM on the phone and make a solid case, our goal of building a true title contender in 2021 may be not as far as we think it is.