Less than enthralled by the free-agent market for corner outfielders, the Mets appear to be gravitating toward the trade route to address their glaring need for a righthanded-hitting outfielder with power.
The Mets maintain some level of interest in most of the free-agent options, according to sources familiar with the team's thinking. The group includes players such as Alex Rios and Michael Morse.
But the source said that the interest is lukewarm at best, with the Mets unlikely to offer any of the remaining candidates anything more than a one-year deal.
The trade market might offer more desirable choices. But swinging a deal presents its own set of complications.
The Mets have shown no appetite for putting any of their best trade chips in play -- such as top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard -- a prerequisite for entertaining any deal to bring in a legitimate middle-of-the-order threat for the outfield.
As in every offseason, the trade market can shift drastically. Potential targets can be tough to predict. Still, the Mets look more and more likely to explore trades for an outfielder while leaning on the free-agent market as more of a fallback option.
With outfielders Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera expected to be out of their financial reach, the Mets contemplated making a run at veteran outfielder Michael Cuddyer. The 35-year-old veteran emerged as the Mets' top choice until the Rockies extended a $15.3-million qualifying offer this week, effectively ending any interest.
Even if Cuddyer spurns the offer to become a free agent, the team that signs him will be required to surrender a draft pick, a cost the Mets have deemed too high.
The Mets seemed comfortable rolling the dice with Cuddyer despite his shaky defense and spotty injury history. They're hesitant to do the same with others in the market.
Like Cuddyer, Morse, 32, is a righthanded power bat who has had trouble staying healthy. In 131 games with the Giants this season, Morse hit .279 with 16 homers.
But a source indicated that the Mets consider Morse to be more of a defensive liability in leftfield when compared with Cuddyer. Also, Morse isn't viewed as an ideal fit within the Mets' disciplined hitting approach, a continued point of emphasis for general manager Sandy Alderson.
The Mets also seem cool on the 33-year-old Rios. Though he has power on his resume, a definite need for the Mets, Rios has declined in every season since his 25-homer 2012 with the White Sox.
In 131 games with the Rangers this season, he hit .280 with four homers.
Veteran outfielder Torii Hunter, 38, also is on the market. His once-stellar defense has diminished, but he continues to be productive at the plate.
Hunter hit .286 with 17 homers for the Tigers. But he's never played in the World Series and is said to prefer signing with a clear-cut contender.
Nick Markakis, Nori Aoki and Colby Rasmus also remain on the market and might merit a closer look. But they hit lefthanded, and the Mets remain more focused on adding a righthanded bat.
On the trade front, the Mets have been linked to the likes of Red Sox slugger Yoenis Cespedes, but it's unclear whether he actually will be moved. Cespedes, 29, has shown power, with 71 homers in his first three big-league seasons. But his on-base percentage has hovered in the .300 range the last two years.