The first major offseason piece fell into place Tuesday when Yoenis Cespedes re-signed with the Mets for four years and $110 million, a contract that will likely not be outdone in a winter with a weak free-agent class. Cespedes' return should keep New York near the top of the National League East in 2017, but forces the Mets to make another, more-immediate decision: Who will go to clear room for Cespedes?
The Mets have a glut of outfielders and a desire to erase some payroll. The Phillies could use another outfielder and have made it quite apparent they are willing to spend if the financial commitment is for one year.
The division rivals could be a match.
New York will move one of its veteran corner outfielders, Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson. Both are signed for 2017 only; Bruce at $13 million and Granderson at $15 million. Both play right field, where the Phillies have a current hole. Connect the dots, and there is some logic.
But the Phillies are hardly alone in their desire for players on one-year contracts. Another team closer to contention might be more willing to surrender a better return while assuming salary. And it is unclear whether the Phillies would even want to add another outfielder after the addition of veteran Howie Kendrick in a trade earlier this month.
They have had interest in Bruce before. Two sources said the Phillies engaged in trade talks last spring with the Cincinnati Reds, but the Reds opted not to trade Bruce until the July deadline. The Phillies, at the time, viewed Bruce as someone who could benefit from playing at Citizens Bank Park. Bruce, with a few months of decent production, could have been flipped for a prospect.
That would be the strategy behind an acquisition now of Bruce or Granderson. The Phillies, as currently constructed, will decide in spring training between Aaron Altherr and Roman Quinn for right field.
The winner of that job could be a mere placeholder. The front office still believes in Nick Williams' potential. With a strong start to his season at triple-A Lehigh Valley, Williams could be ready for the majors in June. That is the best-case scenario for his development. Dylan Cozens, after a breakout season at double-A Reading, will join Williams in the triple-A outfield.
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak has said he is cognizant of not wanting to block a prospect while still elevating the level of play on the big-league team. The Kendrick trade is an example of that.
Bruce, who will turn 30 in April, hit .250/.309/506 last season between the Reds and Mets. He stumbled after the trade (.219/.294/.391 in 50 games) and became the target of New York ire. He has posted an OPS of more than .800 in five of his last seven seasons. Granderson, who will turn 36 in March, is a .241/.342/.436 hitter in three seasons since coming to the National League.
If the Phillies and Mets were to find a match, it would be unusual. The two rivals have not consummated a trade in more than 15 years. The last deal between them was July 27, 2001: Dennis Cook and Turk Wendell going to the Phillies for Bruce Chen and Adam Walker.