The Mets were prepared to pay a hefty price for catcher Jonathan Lucroy, but it ultimately wasn’t enough for the Brewers, who reportedly agreed on a swap with the Indians late Saturday night. So after a determined, week-long push for Lucroy, the Mets have turned their focus back to outfielder Jay Bruce in the hope of getting a deal done before tomorrow’s 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline, according to multiple sources.
Lucroy had been the Mets’ primary target and Bruce more of a fallback position. But as talks with the Brewers continued Saturday, the Mets’ subsequent attempts to find a match came up short.
Before the Mets went back to the Reds on Bruce, they had discussed a three-player package for Lucroy that included catcher Travis d’Arnaud and outfielder Brandon Nimmo. The potential third player was unknown late Saturday night, but the Mets consider Conforto, Amed Rosario and Dom Smith off the table.
Evidently, those parameters changed dramatically later in the day, and the Mets walked away from those discussions when the Brewers’ demands became too steep.
Lucroy did not play against the Pirates on Saturday — usually a sign that a trade is imminent — but d’Arnaud played the entire game against the Rockies on Saturday night. He didn’t sound bothered by being at the center of the trade ruckus and didn’t feel the need to be reassured by the Mets.
“I love this organization,” d’Arnaud said. “Of course I want to stay.”
Initially, as a lefthanded-hitting corner outfielder, Bruce, 29, was not considered a great fit. But the Mets could use him in rightfield, with Curtis Granderson sharing time in center with Michael Conforto.
Bruce is hitting .268 with 25 home runs and 80 RBIs in 96 games. He also has roughly $4.3 million owed to him this season, with a $13-million option for next year. There reportedly are as many as a half-dozen teams interested in Bruce, including the Dodgers.
Also on the Mets’ agenda is a late-inning relief pitcher, with the Angels’ Joe Smith at the forefront of those discussions. The Mets could try to expand a Lucroy deal to involve a Milwaukee reliever, maybe Will Smith or Jeremy Jeffress, but that was unclear as of Saturday night.
The Mets did sign veteran outfielder Justin Ruggiano before Saturday night’s game — subbing him on the 25-man roster for Jose Reyes, who went on the disabled list — but their chief NL East rival was busy Saturday securing a desperately-needed closer. The Nationals, who are 7 1⁄2 games ahead of the Mets, acquired Mark Melancon from the Pirates for reliever Felipe Rivero and pitching prospect Taylor Hearn.
Former Yankee Melancon, a pending free agent, was 30-for-33 in save chances and had a 1.51 ERA for the Pirates. He’s expected to take over as the Nationals’ closer, bumping Jonathan Papelbon, who had allowed eight runs in a total of one inning in his previous three outings.
The Melancon trade also removes the Nationals as a top suitor for the Yankees’ Andrew Miller and likely indicates he’ll stay in the Bronx. The chances of Brian Cashman getting a team to overpay for Miller — as the Cubs did for Aroldis Chapman this past week — now appear slim.
The NL East was trade central Saturday. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the Braves sent third baseman Hector Olivera, currently finishing up an 82-game domestic-violence suspension in the minors, to the Padres for outfielder Matt Kemp. Kemp was batting .262 with 23 home runs for San Diego, which unloaded roughly $62 million of what’s left of his original eight-year, $180-million deal. Olivera, originally signed by the Dodgers after defecting from Cuba, still is owed $52 million through 2020.
Kemp is the sixth player the Padres have shipped out this season, joining Drew Pomeranz (Red Sox), James Shields (White Sox), Fernando Rodney (Marlins), Andrew Cashner (Marlins) and Melvin Upton Jr. (Blue Jays).