With Brandon Nimmo making a strong case to be the Opening Day center fielder and Michael Conforto progressing from rehab better than expected, Juan Lagares might be the odd man out in the Mets’ outfield. According to Mike Puma of the New York Post, other teams continue to contact the Mets with interest in trading for Lagares, and the team doesn’t rule out a trade happening.
Lagares’s spring got off to a late start due to a hamstring strain, but he has struggled in 22 plate appearances since he returned to the lineup, with just four hits and nine strikeouts in those trips to the plate. Of course, spring training stats are fickle and usually useless, but Lagares came into the spring in competition for a job and with something to prove.
The 28-year-old center fielder, who will turn 29 in a few days, will always have positive value because of his elite center field defense, but the past three seasons he’s put up 79, 84, and 77 wRC+, respectively, and has played only 179 games over the past two seasons because of injury issues. Lagares tried to adapt a more launch angle-friendly swing this offseason, but it has not yielded positive results in spring games. He’s set to earn $6.5 million this season, $9.5 million next year, and his contract includes a team option for $9.5 million for 2020 with a $500k buyout.
Given their crowded outfield situation, it makes sense for the Mets to explore trading Lagares. That said, he remains the only true center fielder on the team’s 40-man roster, and the depth behind him is a rather uninspiring group that includes Matt den Dekker, Zach Borenstein, and Kevin Kaczmarski.