Ranking 5 big ticket free agent and trade targets for Mets if J.T. Realmuto shies away from New York

Danny Abriano
·5 min read
George Springer, Francisco Lindor, and Trevor Bauer TREATED ART
George Springer, Francisco Lindor, and Trevor Bauer TREATED ART

With free agency underway and Steve Cohen's purchase of the team expected to close in the coming days, things could be about to get very interesting for the Mets.

And in addition to free agency, there are several stars expected to be available on the trade market.

Add to the above the expectation that many teams could be less likely to spend big this offseason (whether it's via free agency or taking on salary via trade) and you get a potentially perfect storm for the Mets, whose incoming billionaire owner is unencumbered by the financial losses every other MLB owner took during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

For the purposes of this article, we'll be discussing only players who are expected to get (or already have) large deals in terms of average annual value, years, or both.

That means a free agent like Charlie Morton will not be ranked here. Nor will younger stars who could become available via trade but who are not close to free agency and whose salaries are not yet relatively large.

J.T. Realmuto, who would reportedly prefer to sign in a state that isn't New York, is also not part of this discussion.

Factoring in cost in terms of years and dollars, risks, and potential player assets needed to acquire them, here's our ranking of five free agent and trade options who could be fits for the Mets this offseason...

5. LIAM HENDRIKS

The best reliever on the free agent market, Hendriks -- whom the Athletics did not extend a qualifying offer to -- has been one of the most dominant relievers in baseball the last two seasons.

That Hendriks was mediocre in 2017 and 2018 is one warning sign. He'll also turn 32 years old before the 2021 season begins.

Additionally, with Edwin Diaz on the roster and under control through 2022 (and with Seth Lugo potentially moving back to the bullpen), adding an elite closer via free agency should be lower on the Mets' agenda.

They still need to bolster the bullpen, though. Perhaps Brad Hand -- recently put on waivers and then bought out by the Cleveland Indians due to a money crunch -- should be the target.

4. NOLAN ARENADO

Arenado was a far buzzier name in 2019, before Cohen became the Mets' owner and before other players flooded the free agent and trade markets.

But the 29-year-old Arenado (he'll turn 30 next April) remains one of the best two-way players in baseball despite a relatively down 2020 season.

If the Colorado Rockies make Arenado available, they will likely have to be willing to do one of two things in order for any team to bite -- either eat a large chunk of the $199 million owed to Arenado over the next six seasons or accept an underwhelming package of players in return.

For the Mets, Arenado would be a perfect fit at third base and allow them to slide Jeff McNeil to second base (assuming there is a DH in 2021 and Robinson Cano is used there) or left field. 

3. TREVOR BAUER

Bauer is far and away the best starting pitcher on the market, though that says more about the market than it does about Bauer. He was a true ace in 2018 and 2020, but not at that level in 2019 and from 2015 to 2017.

If a team believes it's getting the 2018 and 2020 version of Bauer, he's someone who truly commands a massive deal in terms of both years and dollars. If a team is unsure whether it's getting the 2018 and 2020 version of Bauer, he could be about to get a massive overpay.

Per Baseball Savant, Bauer was elite in seven of 12 key metrics in 2020, so there's reason to be hopeful that he will dominate for years to come.

Teams will also factor in Bauer's personality and social media presence, though that should absolutely not be a determining factor of whether to sign him.

When it comes to the Mets, Bauer would be a great fit behind Jacob deGrom in the rotation. But with Marcus Stroman, Masahiro Tanaka, and Charlie Morton among those available via free agency, it's hard to rank Bauer higher than No. 3 on the Mets' list of overall targets.

2. FRANCISCO LINDOR

The Mets are in a good spot when it comes to their infield, and it can be argued that they have plenty of options to fill third base, shortstop, and second base.

But when a soon-to-be-27-year-old superstar is available, it's usually wise to go after him unless you already have a team full of superstars.

Lindor is a game-changer on both sides of the ball, and with the Indians already cutting costs, it will be a surprise if they don't look to trade him this offseason.

With Lindor set for free agency after the 2021 season, the Indians can expect a solid package in exchange but not one that totally guts the acquiring team's farm system.

What that could take from the Mets remains to be seen, but they certainly have enough high-end prospects to pique Cleveland's interest.

1. GEORGE SPRINGER

Springer is ranked ahead of Lindor because he fills a bigger need and because all it will take to land him is money.

A two-way star in center field, Springer would fill one of the Mets' two biggest needs (the other is catcher) and further lengthen a lineup that is already quite potent.

Having received a qualifying offer from the Houston Astros, the Mets will lose their second-round pick in the 2021 MLB Draft if they sign Springer. That would be a small price to pay.

There is a chance that the 31-year-old Springer will have to move to a corner outfield spot in a few years, but that should not preclude the Mets from making him their top target this offseason.