A few weeks ago the Mets made the biggest free-agent signing of the offseason when they agreed to a four-year, $110 million deal with Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes has been with the Mets since the 2015 trade deadline and the marriage couldn't be going any better. He loves New York and New York loves him.
Cespedes spent much of last season as the team's regular center fielder before sliding over to his natural left field in July, with Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson splitting time in center after that. Those guys are three of the eighth outfielders on the Mets' 40-man roster at the moment:
Becerra is going back to the minors next season and chances are Nimmo will return to Triple-A as well. Same with Kelly, assuming he doesn't lose his 40-man roster spot at some point this winter. Bruce, Cespedes, Conforto, Granderson and Lagares are all bona fide big-leaguers.
Only one of those five, Lagares, is a legitimate center fielder, and he has a .292 on-base percentage the last two years. Bruce and Granderson have been mentioned in trade rumors all offseason, but so far no one has taken the bait. The Mets have four corner outfielders, three of whom are left-handed. Not ideal roster construction.
It's no surprise then that Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports the Mets are in the market for center field help. They've spoken to the Pirates about Andrew McCutchen, whose days in center may be numbered, and the Royals about Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson. Cain and Dyson will both be free agents next winter.
Rosenthal explains exactly how complicated a trade for McCutchen would be:
They would need to trade both Granderson and Bruce if they wanted to play Conforto regularly in right. And if they satisfied the Pirates' desire for a young starting pitcher, they likely would need to add a right-handed reliever; Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo otherwise might fill that role as the Mets are presently constituted, assuming the rest of the rotation is healthy.
Got all that? Three trades might be required for the Mets to add a center fielder. They've yet to pull off even one due to the glut of hitters in the trade and free-agent markets -- and both Granderson and Bruce are coming off 30-homer seasons, making them attractive even as they enter their free-agent years.
The Mets would have to trade one of their corner outfield bats to clear a spot for a center fielder -- either that or send Conforto to Triple-A, which would not be ideal -- in addition to whatever pieces they'd have to give up in a trade. Pitching, most likely.
Give the Mets a truth serum and I'm sure they'd tell you their ideal outfield is Cespedes in left, Conforto in right, someone like McCutchen or Cain in center, and Lagares as the fourth outfielder. That means dumping Bruce and Granderson, trading for a center fielder, and hoping Conforto picks up a position (right field) where he has only 93 1/3 innings of professional experience. Yikes.
The Mets have some roster construction problems right now, and if they had a chance to do it all over, they'd probably go back and decline Bruce's option. Even that would only help so much. Adding a true center fielder won't be easy. It'll require a series of moves, not one straightforward trade.