Latest on the Mets, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Trevor Bauer

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Andy Martino
·3 min read
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Trevor Bauer delivers a pitch wearing red Cincinnati Reds jersey
Trevor Bauer delivers a pitch wearing red Cincinnati Reds jersey

As expected, the Mets pulled the trigger on their Steven Matz trade Wednesday, clearing $5.2 million off their payroll that can now be used for Trevor Bauer or Jackie Bradley Jr.

If the team’s agreement with lefty reliever Aaron Loup is finalized, it will add about $3 million and leave the Mets' luxury tax payroll for 2021 at about $185 million, according to the team’s internal estimates.

Agents have noticed the same shift that we have over the past week or so in that the Mets are more willing than before to exceed the $210 million luxury tax threshold. That could mean signing Bauer or Bradley -- but likely not both, which could actually put them over the second luxury tax threshold of $230 million, resulting in further penalties.

They remain interested in Bradley, but far apart on value.

Bradley, who turns 31 in April, is said to be looking for a contract of more than three or four years. He would be justified in noting that Denard Span signed a three-year, $32 million contract at age 32 in 2016, and that Michael Bourn signed a four-year, $48 million pact at 30 years old in 2013.

Bradley, a prime defender who hits for power and had an .814 OPS in 2020, has every right to expect much better deals than those other center fielders.

The Mets, for their part, currently prefer a short-term deal, as they do with Bauer. They are a long way from even the low end of what Bradley might want -- let’s say four years, $60 million or more as an educated guess based on many conversations with many league sources.

For Mets fans thinking that Bradley would be a simple, cheap alternative, the truth is more complicated: He wants to be valued as a premium player who -- unlike George Springer -- will stick at center deep into his 30s.

Having said all that, the free agent market is down this year, and it’s hard to find obvious suitors for Bradley. The Philadelphia Phillies could use a center fielder but might spend on a shortstop instead. The Houston Astros do, too, but they appear serious about going with Myles Straw.

So while nothing is close between Bradley and the Mets, a survey of the landscape shows it as a match. That’s why we’re keeping a close eye on it.

Alternatively, the Mets could sign Albert Almora or Jake Marisnick to relieve Brandon Nimmo in center in the late innings. That would allow them to pay Bauer.

As with Bradley, Bauer is asking for more years and more dollars than the Mets are willing to give. As SNY reported Wednesday, the Mets’ offer to Bauer is approximately this: Four years with opt-outs and a figure somewhat less than $36 million per year.

With the Los Angeles Angels out on Bauer, as first reported by the Los Angeles Times, the remaining known teams -- the Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers -- are interested in short-term deals.

If an unknown team emerges to bid more aggressively on Bauer, that team will get him. The Mets like him, but are not interested in a bidding war.

But in the current known landscape, the Mets are the obvious fit -- not at Gerrit Cole/Stephen Strasburg prices, but on terms closer to what the team prefers.

Now you can see why the Mets aren’t close to a deal yet with Bradley or Bauer. But you can also see why that might change.