As the Mets decide how to prioritize their needs this offseason, there's a case to be made that the situation in center field is only third on the list, behind shoring up the starting rotation and finding a new catcher.
But that doesn't mean that finding a new center isn't also incredibly important.
The last time the Mets had a true two-way center fielder was in 2011, the last season Carlos Beltran spent in New York before being traded to the San Francisco Giants.
And Beltran was a generational talent -- the rare center fielder who could put up MVP-type numbers with the bat while also being one of the best defenders in baseball.
The Mets are almost certainly not going to find the next Beltran this offseason, but here are some strong (and not so strong) options for New York to choose from...
THE INTERNAL OPTIONS
Among the "not so strong" options is Nimmo, who has been miscast as a big league center fielder and done his best defensively while proving with his bat that he is a keeper (who should be in a corner outfield spot).
This season, Nimmo was tied with Aaron Hicks of the Yankees as the worst defensive center fielder in baseball, per Outs Above Average (OAA).
If Nimmo is called on in a pinch to fill in in center field due to injury or an odd circumstance, that's fine. But he cannot be the Mets' expected everyday center fielder heading into 2021. To put Nimmo back out there would be putting him and the team in position to fail.
Another internal option who could be considered is Rosario, a player the Mets openly discussed as a candidate to move to center field when he was struggling defensively at shortstop in June of 2019.
While Rosario has shored up his defense, he regressed badly at the plate in 2020 as rookie Andres Gimenez emerged as a solid contributor with the bat and an elite defender at three infield spots -- including short.
Had Rosario continued to impress offensively in 2020, the idea of having him spend the offseason learning center field could've made sense. But at this point, the Mets should be looking elsewhere for the answer to their center field problem, which takes us to...
THE EXTERNAL OPTIONS
There aren't any perfect options out there, but Springer is close.
Springer, who turned 31 in September, is likely going to get one of the most lucrative deals handed out to any free agent this offseason. But he's earned it.
A career .270/.361/.491 hitter who has averaged 35 homers per 162 games and still plays an above average center field, Springer would be a tremendous fit for the Mets, who could slide Nimmo to left and leave Michael Conforto in right field.
For Springer, who might have to move from center field in a few years, the Mets (and other interested teams) should try to draw the line at a deal that pays him a lot on an annual basis but does not exceed five seasons.
If there is a team out there that is prepared to offer Springer six or even seven seasons, it will likely be time for the Mets to turn to another option.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
A solid fallback option for the Mets if they don't sign Springer could be Bradley, who hit .283/.364/.450 for the Boston Red Sox in 2020 during what was a bounce back year for him.
Defensively in center field, Bradley was elite, tied with Luis Robert and Cody Bellinger with 7 OAA.
There should be some caution when it comes to Bradley, though, since he's a player who has been a bit enigmatic -- and was a potential non-tender candidate before the 2020 season.
The Mets kicked the tires on Marte last offseason before he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Marte was then traded during the season -- this time to the Miami Marlins -- and could (you guessed it) be on the move again this offseason.
The Marlins hold a $12.5 million option ($2 million buyout) on Marte for the 2021 season, and will exercise that option. But at $12.5 million, it could behoove the payroll-conscious Marlins to see what they can get on the open market for the 32-year-old.
Marte hit .281/.340/.430 in 61 regular season games in 2020 (yes, you read that right), but he struggled defensively in center field, making him a less than ideal fit for the Mets.
With prospective new owner Steve Cohen waiting in the wings to take over the Mets, they will likely be in the conversation for many of the top free agents and trade candidates on the market this offseason, but they cannot be expected to sign and/or trade for a whole bunch of them.
The above means that the Mets will likely be choosing between a player like Springer and J.T. Realmuto. Or deciding whether they'd rather go all-in on Trevor Bauer or allocate much of their budget to a star position player.
In order to build a sustained winner, the Mets will need to be smart financially, careful when making trades (especially ones that ship top prospects out of town), and continue to draft well. And while dancing that dance, New York has some major holes to fill between now and Opening Day.