With free agency underway and Steve Cohen about to officially take over as the Mets' new owner, the next few months could change the course of the franchise.
Coming off a brutally disappointing 2020 season, the Mets -- with the best starting pitcher in baseball, a dominant closer, and a very good young core of position players -- remain intent on contending in 2021.
In order to do so, they will need to fill some big holes.
At the top of the Mets' list of needs is finding a catcher, fixing the starting rotation, and adding a center fielder who can be a plus defensively. If that center fielder can also be a plus offensively, even better.
As it happens, one of the best two-way center fielders in baseball is a free agent.
George Springer, 31, is not a perfect fit for the Mets. But it's close. Let's examine the pros and cons of signing him this offseason, starting with the cons...
The first thing that jumps out about Springer is his age.
At 31, he's the oldest of the top three free agents. Trevor Bauer is 29 (turning 30 in January) and J.T. Realmuto is also 29 (turning 30 in March).
Springer will be 31 for most of the 2020 season, turning 32 on Sept. 19. But while age is a concern, it's not as if he's showing down. Springer's .540 slugging percentage in 2020 was the second-highest of his career.
How long can he stay in center field?
Springer is a difference-maker offensively no matter where he plays, but the Mets would be signing him due in large part to his ability to play center field.
In 2020, Springer was ranked 16th out of 39 qualified players in center field as rated by Outs Above Average. He's still a plus defender there and will remain playable there if he's just average or even a tick below. But how many more years can he stay in center?
Years and dollars
In a regular offseason, this might be more of a concern. But in the depressed market many believe will develop due to the massive losses teams took in 2020, Springer's eventual contract might not be too crazy.
If the Mets can keep it to five guaranteed years, that would be ideal. If it goes beyond that, they might be better off looking elsewhere.
Above average defense
While he might eventually need to move to a corner outfield spot, Springer remains an above average defender in center field.
Brandon Nimmo, the Mets' regular center fielder in 2020, was tied with Aaron Hicks as the worst-rated center fielder per Outs Above Average. Swapping Springer in for Nimmo would be quite the upgrade.
Springer taking over for Nimmo would also allow the Mets to slide Nimmo to left field and keep Jeff McNeil on the infield.
Coming off a .265/.359/.540 season in 2020, Springer's average 162 game season looks like this: .270/.361/.491 triple slash, 35 homers, and 28 doubles. That'll play.
That career slugging percentage is also dragged down a bit by Springer's 2018 season, where he slugged just .434. He slugged .522 in 2017 and .591 in 2019.
Yes, Springer and all of the other Astros who were involved in the sign-stealing scandal are tainted by it. But Springer has been viewed as a tremendous clubhouse influence during his seven seasons in Houston. What happened in 2017 doesn't erase that.
If the Mets can keep the length of a potential deal to Springer to five years, they should jump at the chance to sign him.
He would be an impact center fielder on both sides of the ball and his addition to the lineup would allow the Mets to go defense-first at catcher if they so choose.