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Mets seek lefty-hitting CF to platoon with Juan Lagares

Juan Lagares likely will share playing time in

Juan Lagares likely will share playing time in centerfield next season. Credit: Jim McIsaac

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Mets departed from baseball’s winter meetings Thursday with a revamped middle infield — but with more items to cross off the to-do list.

“We had a lot of work to do and a lot of different areas we’re going to focus on,” assistant general manager John Ricco said. “And I think we addressed some of those areas, if not all of them, in some form.”

The Mets quickly pivoted from missing out on top free-agent target Ben Zobrist. They completed a trade for second baseman Neil Walker from the Pirates and followed up by signing shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to a two-year, $18.5-million deal that is expected to be made official in the coming days.

But the Mets remain active in acquiring a lefthanded-hitting outfielder capable of platooning in centerfield with righthanded-hitting Juan Lagares, who struggled against righties.

The bridge to closer Jeurys Familia also must be solidified. The Mets want an experienced righthander and a lefty specialist.

“We still have more work to do over the next few weeks and heading into spring training,” Ricco said. “But I think we’re in a good place.”

Zobrist spurned the Mets by signing a four-year, $56-million deal with the Cubs. But while Zobrist had been the top target, missing out on him has given the Mets financial flexibility they otherwise wouldn’t have.

They remain priced out of upper-tier free agents such as Yoenis Cespedes, the transformative slugger who helped power the Mets to the National League pennant. But with roughly $102 million in commitments, the Mets appear to have room to fill their remaining holes.

“We have the resources to do it,” Ricco said. “I think we have the money to do it. Whether or not we do it will probably depend on who the players are and whether we view them as an upgrade to what we have already.”

Some of that remaining money figures to be spent on bringing back 42-year-old righthander Bartolo Colon. With lefty Jonathon Niese sent to the Pirates in the trade for Walker, the Mets need a back-end starter.

In the case of Colon, he also could be shifted to the bullpen once Zack Wheeler returns from Tommy John surgery sometime around July.

Outfielders Denard Span and Gerardo Parra remain potential options, as the Mets at least appear open to the possibilities of extending multiyear deals. Will Venable also is an option. All three can play center, and all three give the Mets better choices against righties than Lagares.

As for the bullpen, interest remains in a reunion with lefty specialist Jerry Blevins, according to a source. But setup man Tyler Clippard appears to have fallen off the Mets’ radar. Throughout the offseason, the Mets have shied away from the top tier of available relievers.

The addition of Walker and Cabrera remakes an infield that last season featured Daniel Murphy, Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores. Murphy departed as a free agent, but it appears that Tejada and Flores will remain to give the Mets added depth.

Flores and Tejada have bounced around the infield defensively, an important consideration given concerns about third baseman David Wright’s health. Also, much of Walker’s success at the plate has come against righties. Tejada and Flores give the Mets options at second base against lefties.

Extra bases

The Mets lost righthander Matt Bowman to the Cardinals in the Rule 5 Draft . . . Steven Matz will play Santa Claus at the team’s annual holiday celebration on Tuesday.

New York Sports