NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Mets departed the winter meetings on Thursday with too many outfielders and too much money on the books, leaving two of the biggest offseason tasks on their to-do list.
As the meetings approached, Mets officials were optimistic about their chances of dealing away Jay Bruce, clearing his $13-million salary and alleviating their logjam in the outfield. But they have encountered the reality of a market that has been slow to move.
“Outfielders, hitters, still quite a few of them out there,” general manager Sandy Alderson said. “I think clubs are still trying to sort out their priorities, cost in dollars, cost in prospects, cost in draft picks.”
It is too early in the offseason process for the Mets to simply move Bruce in a salary dump for a negligible return. But it remains a possibility, especially with Alderson needing to decrease payroll from the roughly $150 million that it stands at now.
“I think we laid some groundwork, as they say,” he said. “But we’ll have conversations continuing when we get back to New York. So I think we’re pleased with the fact that we had some dialogue and it continues. We’ll pursue things over the next couple of weeks before Christmas and possibly thereafter.”
At the very least, the Mets got a clearer sense of how the industry views some of their prospects, helpful information as they work to move an outfielder and add pieces to the bullpen.
Shortstop Amed Rosario, the Mets’ top prospect, has long been deemed untouchable. Alderson said other teams did not bother trying to include him in trade talks. “I think that’s why his name didn’t come up,” he said. “We’ve made that clear before and continue to make that clear when his name is mentioned. I think clubs have gotten the message.”
Outfielder Michael Conforto also is close to being off limits. According to a source, one club made an aggressive bid for the 23-year-old coming off a down season, but the Mets made it clear that they had no interest in listening.
Industry sources said the Mets have adopted a similar stance regarding righthander Robert Gsellman, whose emergence in the rotation late last season boosted his stock.
However, the Mets have showed some level of willingness to move other players in their system. Outfielder Brandon Nimmo’s name came up during trade discussions during the winter meetings, according to sources. Nimmo also had been discussed at the Aug. 1 trade deadline.
Meanwhile, with catching relatively scarce throughout baseball, a source said the names of a pair of young backstops also were kicked around in trade talks. Kevin Plawecki endured a difficult season with the Mets and Triple-A Las Vegas, but the 25-year-old former first-round pick generated some interest in potential deals. Tomas Nido, the Mets’ top catching prospect, also was discussed. Nido, 22, enjoyed a breakout season at Class A St. Lucie. He hit .320, good enough to win the Florida State League batting title.
Those prospects could come into play as the Mets evaluate their options in the relief market. They continue to target mid level acquisitions in hopes of improving depth, an especially important task with closer Jeurys Familia likely to be suspended early in the season under baseball’s domestic-violence policy.
“[There’s] a lot of relievers on the free-agent market, but again, it’s just hard to predict,” Alderson said when asked how the Mets will go about adding to the bullpen. “Timing-wise, free agent versus trade, it’s just hard to predict.”
Notes & quotes: Alderson has been vocal about an organizational push toward defensive versatility. He said that includes the “very real possibility” of exposing Rosario to other infield positions. “He’s athletic enough,” Alderson said. “We’re not going to harm him by playing him somewhere else.” . . . The Mets conceivably could trade first baseman Lucas Duda and move one of their excess outfielders to first base, but Alderson said that with the team expected to contend, they are wary of forcing players to switch positions . . . The Mets did not lose any players in the major-league phase of Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft. With a full 40-man roster, they did not make any selections.