When it comes to their pursuit of J.T. Realmuto, how the Mets choose their bait will determine their fate. In light of that, their wheeler-dealer rookie general manager sent an interesting signal to the Marlins and other potential trade partners Wednesday:
The core is sacred.
How sacred, we’ll soon discover.
“We’ve got a core group of guys,” Brodie Van Wagenen said, as he, Jeff Wilpon and Mickey Callaway joined WFAN’s Mike Francesa over 90 minutes. “… We’re starting to look at a pretty long runway to be competitive. For us to move any of those guys off of a big-league roster, we don’t want to create holes somewhere else. That’s why I talk about trying to be additive, not pulling pieces away.”
In listing the Mets’ core, Van Wagenen identified seven players with three or more years of control: New acquisitions Robinson Cano (five years) and Edwin Diaz (four), as well as Seth Lugo (four), Robert Gsellman (four), Amed Rosario (five), Brandon Nimmo (four) and Michael Conforto (three).
The last three names ring particularly relevant because that trio has been discussed in talks with the Marlins for Realmuto, Miami’s All-Star catcher who clearly wants to be traded. While the Mets are seriously considering Nimmo as a centerpiece, as The Post’s Joel Sherman reported, they do not appear open to trading Conforto, who revived his career with a strong second half in 2018. And it would be difficult to find someone to replicate the shortstop Rosario’s ceiling as he, too, improved notably in the second half.“We like his speed. We like his power,” Van Wagenen said of Rosario. “He’s got a high motor, as we call it.” Furthermore, Van Wagenen said, he likes the idea of Rosario and Cano teaming up the middle, with Rosario benefiting from Cano’s experience and Cano drawing energy from Rosario’s high motor.
“He’s like [Jose] Reyes was back in his heyday, and he’s going to continue to improve,” Callaway said of Rosario. “He wants to learn. He wants to be better. He can play every single day.
“… There’s still going to be some swing and miss this next year. There’s still going to be some chase. But he’s getting better and better, and that’s what you want to see from a young player. … I think the sky is the limit for him.”
Van Wagenen acknowledged, “I think we have one too many left-handed bats in the middle of the lineup to not have a righty to offset it,” and that’s why a trade of the lefty-hitting Nimmo for the righty-hitting Realmuto could be more palatable; the general manager has publicly acknowledged contact with free-agent center fielder A.J. Pollock, who hits right-handed and could replace Nimmo.
When discussing the Mets’ historic midseason plummet last year, Callaway said, “The thing that hurt us the most is when we lost our catchers [Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki] in back-to-back days. … The catcher is a huge position, as we all know, and we’re taking that into consideration this winter.”
The Marlins have myriad suitors for the 27-year-old Realmuto, who has two years left before free agency (and who was represented by Van Wagenen until the Mets hired him away from CAA), and they have exhibited a reluctance to trade him within the National League East. Nimmo as a centerpiece might not suffice, especially because the Mets weakened their farm system with the trade of pitcher Justin Dunn and outfielder Jarred Kelenic to Seattle as part of the package for Cano and Diaz, and therefore don’t have many secondary pieces to offer.
Nevertheless, Van Wagenen quickly has made clear his doggedness. The Mets, it seems, will be right in the mix for Realmuto until the situation resolves with Realmuto going elsewhere, the Mets acquiring someone else to catch or Realmuto trying on a Mets uniform.