Brodie Van Wagenen has already completed one blockbuster trade this winter, and rumors have been swirling about another one: one or more of Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo, and Michael Conforto for Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. The Mets have reportedly been “aggressive” in talks with the Marlins about Realmuto, and Miami has made no secret about wanting to deal him, but in order to give him up to a division rival, they are asking for a premium.
The Mets shouldn’t give it to them. This is not because J.T. Realmuto isn’t a good player worthy of a hefty return. His brilliance behind the plate for the Marlins cannot be understated; he is definitely a top three catcher in the game. He is under team control for two more seasons, something that surely attracts the Mets over a potentially more pricey alternative in free agency. But I am not here to debate whether J.T. Realmuto is a good player or not. He unquestionably is.
The Mets, however, simply are not in a position right now to be dealing young, cost-controlled talent from their roster. Acquiring J.T. Realmuto plugs a hole, to be sure, but trading any of Rosario, Nimmo, or Conforto opens up another gaping hole on the major league roster that they would have to address. In the outfield, the Mets are especially thin at the moment. Yoenis Cespedes will be sidelined well into next year, Jay Bruce was part of the trade with the Seattle Mariners for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, and the Mets have virtually no outfield talent in the upper minors. Right now the Mets have three healthy outfielders on their team, one of whom is Juan Lagares, who has had issues staying healthy over the past few seasons.
Of course, if the Mets were to deal one of Nimmo or Conforto, they would need to find a replacement in free agency. A.J. Pollock has been mentioned as a target for the Mets. While his ability to play center field and swing an above league average bat is attractive, he has not been without his own injury problems and will likely command a contract similar to that of Yasmani Grandal, who the Mets could sign without having to trade one of their young assets. Outside of Bryce Harper, one would be hard pressed to find an outfielder in free agency that is likely to match the production of a fully-healthy Michael Conforto or even a version of Brandon Nimmo that is not playing out of his mind quite the way he did last season.
While Amed Rosario may seem like the least painful player to part with of the trio being discussed, the fact remains that a young shortstop with his upside is not too easily replaced. Mets top prospect Andres Gimenez is indeed a shortstop, but there is some debate as to whether he is ready for the major leagues yet, and relying on both him and Peter Alonso to be major contributors in their rookie seasons seems like a pretty big risk to take for a team that wants to contend this season. Given Rosario’s solid second half and potential for further improvement, I don’t think a 2.0-2.5 WAR season is too far-fetched of a prediction to make. Outside of Manny Machado and potentially Jose Iglesias—who would likely be an underwhelming replacement in the eyes of most Mets fans—that type of shortstop simply isn’t available in free agency.
In summary, unless the Mets are planning on replacing their vacated outfield slot with Bryce Harper or their vacated infield slot with Manny Machado—and it doesn’t seem likely that the Mets are in on either player—a deal for J.T. Realmuto doesn’t make much sense for them. Paying a sky-high price for Realmuto would potentially be justifiable if the gap between Realmuto and the best available catcher in free agency was sufficiently large. But I would argue it is not. We have already made the case for why Yasmani Grandal is a great fit for the Mets and arguably very close to as good of a catcher as J.T. Realmuto.
Parting with a young, cost-controlled player to fill the need at the catching position, just to turn around and have to replace that player for roughly the price of Grandal seems foolish when the team could just sign Grandal. So Brodie, please, hang up on the Marlins, keep Rosario, Nimmo, and Conforto, and sign Grandal.