Signing free-agent outfielder Curtis Granderson would likely put a squeeze on the Mets' offseason budget. But the former Yankees slugger might also represent the team's best chance to land a power-hitting corner outfielder on the open market.
Perhaps it's why Mets general manager Sandy Alderson met with Granderson on Sunday.
Two people familiar with the talks confirmed the meeting, which was first reported Monday by Fox Sports. One source characterized the meeting as an introduction. Talks are preliminary but might be a sign of what could become an intriguing pursuit by the Mets.
Granderson's recent track record as a power hitter fits a major team need for the Mets, who began the winter desperate to upgrade their outfield. After an injury plagued year in 2013, Granderson's expected asking price might also fit with the budget-conscious Mets, who have shied away from top-shelf players such as Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo.
One rival executive estimated that on the open market, Granderson could fetch a four-year deal worth around $60 million. Signing Granderson around that figure should still leave the Mets with enough money to pursue a mid-rotation starting pitcher.
But the executive also said Granderson, 32, could also be in position to push for a fifth season, which might be problematic for the Mets. Just last winter, the Mets held firm against awarding a fifth year to outfielder Michael Bourn, who eventually found such a deal with the Indians.
However, unlike Bourn, the Mets wouldn't be required to surrender a first-round draft choice should they sign Granderson. Instead, because the Mets finished with one of the bottom 10 records in the league, the Mets would part with a second-rounder as compensation.
Forearm and hand injuries limited Granderson to just 61 games, during which he hit .229 with seven homers. Before that, Granderson was coming off back-to-back seasons of 40 homers or more. A Mets official said the team still sees him as a strong corner outfielder, even in spacious Citi Field.
The Mets began the offseason with about $30 million to spend. They spent $7.25 million to sign outfielder Chris Young.
But the club also dumped a projected $4 million from next year's payroll by non-tendering five players before Monday night's deadline: righthanded starter Jeremy Hefner, veteran reliever Scott Atchison, and utilitymen Jordany Valdespin, Omar Quintanilla and Justin Turner.
Valdespin's long history of behavioral problems made him a non-tender candidate, though the Mets' decisions on Turner and Hefner were surprising. Turner is highly regarded by manager Terry Collins and Hefner would have cost the Mets just the minimum salary as he recovered from Tommy John surgery.