NEW YORK -- While the Mets have recently considered "creative" center-field solutions, according to a source, including a potential trade for five-time All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen, it remains highly unlikely that the team will move forward on any such deal.
One source described the Mets' negotiations for McCutchen as "minor," classifying a trade as highly unlikely to materialize. To acquire a player such as McCutchen with two remaining years of team control, the Mets would have to give up key big league-ready assets -- likely including outfielder Michael Conforto, a starting pitcher or both.
The Mets are uninterested in spending heavily on a center fielder, as evidenced by their non-pursuit of Dexter Fowler -- a free-agent center fielder who signed with the Cardinals for five years and $82.5 million. To the contrary, the Mets expect to enter Spring Training with Curtis Granderson and Juan Lagares platooning in center. Conforto will also receive reps at the position in Spring Training, and he could see time there.
The Mets do not view other center-field trade targets as better options than their in-house alternatives.
So while the Mets will continue to entertain all sorts of offers between now and Spring Training, their primary offseason missions remain unchanged. The club hopes to shed right fielder Jay Bruce and his $13 million salary prior to Spring Training, with a source predicting a deal could take place before New Year's Day. MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported late Monday that the Mets remain engaged with the Blue Jays on deals for Bruce and Granderson, though Mets officials prefer to keep Granderson due to his center-field ability.
Granderson played 36 games in center for the Mets last season, impressing the team with his athleticism at age 35. Entering his age-36 season and the final year of his contract, Granderson believes he can remain a steady defender there. The Mets plan to spell him late in games with Gold Glove Award winner Lagares, who will also start every time the team faces a left-handed pitcher.
"I actually surprised myself," Granderson said recently of his abilities in center. "I wasn't sure if I would be able to [do it] early on for the amount of time [that I did]. And then as we kept staying out there, kept doing it … I found out that as long as I continue to do everything I was doing in right field, I'll still be able to do the same things in center field."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.