Analyzing trade and free agent scenarios for Mets after dealing Steven Matz, including Kris Bryant

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Danny Abriano
·4 min read
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Kris Bryant, Trevor Bauer, and Jackie Bradley Jr. TREATED ART
Kris Bryant, Trevor Bauer, and Jackie Bradley Jr. TREATED ART

When the Mets traded Steven Matz and most of the $5.2 million he's owed in 2021 to the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night, the immediate thought turned to what could be coming next.

While the roughly $5.2 million the Mets cleared off the books isn't a huge number, it's substantial enough to know that another move (or moves) is coming. And the Mets now have more than $32 million in salary cap space before hitting the luxury tax threshold, which they might blow past anyway.

Pair the above with the fact that the Mets now have a clear opening in their starting rotation, and the wheels start to turn even more.

Could the Matz trade (which the Mets had lined up for a while, per SNY's Andy Martino) be a precursor to a Trevor Bauer signing? Yep.

But it could also help pave the way for different moves as the Mets look to finish their first offseason under Steve Cohen with a flourish.

Let's dig into some possibilities, starting with the one at the front of most people's minds...

Sign Trevor Bauer

With the Los Angeles Angels and Toronto Blue Jays seemingly out of the running for Bauer, the Mets remain very much involved -- with the Los Angeles Dodgers perhaps their main competition for the 30-year-old Cy Young winner.

As things currently stand in the Mets' starting rotation, Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Marcus Stroman, and David Peterson will likely take up four of the five spots. The final spot at the moment could be Joey Lucchesi's to lose, though the Mets have minor league options on Lucchesi, who spent most of the 2020 season at the San Diego Padres' alternate site.

Meanwhile, Seth Lugo appears bound for the bullpen, which is where he should be.

Signing Bauer before doing anything else would bring the Mets right near or perhaps a bit beyond the $210 million luxury tax threshold. And with Matz now gone, the opening in the rotation is there.

Sign Jackie Bradley Jr.

As they pursue Bauer, the Mets remain in on Jackie Bradley Jr., whose addition would fill a major need in center field and allow them to slide Brandon Nimmo to left.

Along with the Mets, the Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants have been linked to Bradley, who could potentially wind up with a three-year deal that pays him upwards of $15 million per season, SNY Mets Studio Analyst Jim Duquette reported on Wednesday night.

For the Mets, signing Bradley wouldn't necessarily preclude them from signing Bauer, regardless of which one signs first.

Trade for Sonny Gray and Eugenio Suarez

The Cincinnati Reds have been dumping salary, and both Sonny Gray and Eugenio Suarez remain available.

Hat tip to SNY contributor Joe DeMayo, who noted Thursday that the Mets trading for Gray and Suarez in one fell swoop could be a perfect and cost effective "kill two birds with one stone" move.

Team president Sandy Alderson has seemed wary of using J.D. Davis at third base, and Suarez -- who has been slightly above average to slightly below average defensively at the hot corner -- would give the Mets an ideal fit there.

Meanwhile, Gray would slide nicely into the rotation, but would likely mean the end of any Bauer pursuit.

Suarez, who is under contract through 2024, will earn $10.5 million this season, while Gray will earn $10 million.

While the Reds would be clearing a substantial amount of payroll by trading Suarez and Gray, they will almost certainly want something of value in return. And the Mets are reluctant to part with their most highly-coveted prospects.

Trade for Kris Bryant

Kris Bryant will earn $19.5 million this season before being eligible for free agency.

And with the Chicago Cubs having already traded the much more valuable Yu Darvish in what amounted to a salary dump where they got back middling prospects, it's fair to believe that any team acquiring Bryant would not have to part with any key prospects.

For the Mets, trading for Bryant -- whom they spoke to the Cubs about earlier this offseason, per Martino -- could make sense.

They would in effect be taking a one-year flyer on a former MVP who still has substantial upside, and slotting him in at a position of need.

Trade for Nolan Arenado

If the Colorado Rockies want to sign pending free agent Trevor Story, they have to trade Nolan Arenado.

For the Mets, adding Arenado -- who is owed a whopping $199 million over the next six seasons -- would probably mean not signing Bauer. It might also make it less likely that they're able to extend Francisco Lindor or Michael Conforto.

The above means that trading for Arenado might be the least appetizing scenario. But it's still somewhat enticing when you realize that he can likely be had for what would amount to a salary dump for Colorado.