LAS VEGAS — The market will eventually heat up and player movement will accelerate, but as Day 3 of the winter meetings concluded, the Mets, like many other teams, remained in a deep freeze.
And the source of that inactivity might have been none other than the catcher on whom their sights were initially set a year ago, with the lovefest intensifying in recent weeks as the Marlins have shopped J.T. Realmuto.
Until there’s resolution on the All-Star catcher, the Mets could be on hold in trying to fill vacancies not only behind the plate, but also in the bullpen and outfield. Realmuto has been pursued by several teams, with the Reds emerging as a potential landing spot for him on Wednesday as the Mets continue to weigh whether they can part with two players — likely Amed Rosario and Brandon Nimmo — for a player in whom they would receive only two seasons of club control.
If the Mets can’t land Realmuto, their attention would likely shift to a free-agent market that includes Yasmani Grandal, Wilson Ramos and Martin Maldonado. None are Realmuto’s equal, but Grandal is the closest of the bunch and also the most expensive. Ramos is strong offensively, but the Mets are concerned about his defense and health history. Maldonado is highly regarded defensively, but doesn’t bring much of a bat to the equation.
“There are options to get more offense behind the plate, but there’s also options to get more defense behind the plate,” general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said Wednesday. “And if we do that, then we’ll look to add offense in other spots.”
And so it stands to reason the Mets — with no sense of urgency in what has been a slow-developing market — may wait until committing to a catcher before moving on their other needs. Such a strategy would give Van Wagenen some indication of how much he can spend for a reliever and right-handed outfield bat.
“We are not viewing the winter meetings as a scoreboard of how many transactions we complete,” Van Wagenen said. “We’re going to view it in terms of how productive the conversations were and what we can do in the days and weeks ahead.”
The Mets’ preferred bullpen options, according to sources, include Andrew Miller, David Robertson, Adam Ottavino and Joe Kelly. In the outfield, A.J. Pollock, Adam Jones and Marwin Gonzalez are options in a lean market for right-handed hitters. Van Wagenen has communicated with Jones’ representatives this week, according to sources.
Nimmo emerged last season as a formidable left-handed bat, but his departure in a trade for Realmuto could be absorbed easier than Rosario’s given the lack of ready depth at shortstop in the organization and a thin market. The Mets are hopeful top prospect Andres Gimenez will be in position for a promotion to the big leagues late this season, but the more likely ETA is 2020. If the Mets are trying to win next season, as Van Wagenen has stated, does it make sense to insert a stopgap such as Adeiny Hechavarria, Freddy Galvis or Alcides Escobar?
The Braves and Dodgers are among the other teams that have been linked to Realmuto, who has indicated he wants out of Miami and won’t sign a long-term deal with the Marlins before hitting free agency in two years.
Last winter, the Mets tried to acquire Realmuto, but sources indicated the organization’s lack of high-end pitching prospects stood as an obstacle. It’s unclear if the Marlins are determined to deal Realmuto before the season or if they might keep him and try to trade him later.
Kevin Boles, who managed the Red Sox Triple-A affiliate at Pawtucket last season, was hired by the Mets on Wednesday as the new manager at Double-A Binghamton. Boles became the third Mets hire from the Red Sox this offseason, joining assistant GM Allard Baird and farm director Jared Banner.
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