DENVER — The Mets have warmed to the idea of picking up Asdrubal Cabrera’s $8.5-million team option for next season, sources told Newsday, even after the drama that unfolded earlier this season when the infielder resisted a move from shortstop.
At one point, Cabrera appeared to be headed elsewhere, when the Mets made it clear they would shop their veteran players on expiring contracts. But leading up to the deadline, sources said that the Mets backed off aggressively shopping Cabrera, especially as he showed encouraging signs of acclimating himself at third base.
“I don’t think this is the moment to think about it,” Cabrera said on Wednesday. “If they take the option, then it’s their choice.”
But Cabrera expressed a growing comfort level at third base, which he called a challenge to learn. Until last month, his big- league experience at the position consisted of emergency duty in one game.
“It’s much quicker,” he said. “You see the game from a different angle. But with time, you start to feel better.”
Also, sources said that the Mets have shown a willingness to explore keeping rightfielder Jay Bruce past this season. There have been no extension talks, with Bruce setting himself up to test the waters of free agency should he continue what has been a career season.
But earlier this week, general manager Sandy Alderson offered a clear signal of the Mets’ thinking. He expressed a growing organizational belief that Michael Conforto has shown the capability to play centerfield for the next few years, an alignment that would open the door for the Mets to retain Bruce past this season.
At the very least, the Mets are on track to make Bruce a qualifying offer, ensuring that they will receive draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere. Bruce homered in Wednesday night’s 10-5 victory over the Rockies, giving him 29 with 75 RBIs in 99 games.
Like Cabrera, Bruce, 30, generated only mild interest at the trade deadline. Sources said both still could be moved during the August waiver period. However, the market as it currently stands points to only marginal return for both players..
Cabrera had asked for a trade in June, when the Mets refused to meet his request to pick up his team option in exchange for his moving from shortstop to second base. He later backed off the trade request, then acquiesced to playing second and third base.
Now, some in the organization lean toward picking up the team option for next year barring injury or a sudden dip in performance. Cabrera, 31, who went 3-for-5 Wednesday night, is hitting .262 with nine homers and 32 RBIs.
Economically, keeping him could make sense for the Mets. Cabrera’s contract includes a $2-million buyout that the Mets would pay should they part ways at season’s end. By picking up the option for next season, the Mets would retain control of a versatile switch hitter on a one-year deal for an additional $6.5 million.
That versatility could serve the Mets well with long-term questions looming at both second base and at third base.
Manager Terry Collins has given Cabrera rave reviews for his early work at third base, noting the soft hands that he has displayed at other positions. Collins also acknowledged the usefulness of versatility.
“The easiest way to explain it is Ben Zobrist,” he said. “This guy has been on two world champions in a row. It’s pretty important to be able to have that versatility. When somebody needs a day off, or someone’s down for a few days, you don’t miss a beat because you have somebody that can step in.”
The Mets once pursued the switch-hitting Zobrist in free agency, drawn to his ability to play multiple positions.