ORLANDO, Fla. — Carlos Santana fits the mold of “difference-maker” the Mets desire, and team officials are willing to at least explore the possibility of adding the switch-hitting slugger to a lineup that could use another proven bat.
An industry source confirmed Tuesday that the Mets have expressed interest in the free-agent first baseman, who is familiar to new manager Mickey Callaway from their time together with the Indians.
FanRag Sports first reported the Mets’ interest in the 31-year-old Santana, who posted a .259/.363/.455 slash line with 23 homers and 79 RBIs last season.
The Mets’ interest in Santana also underscores how underwhelmed team brass was with rookie Dominic Smith in the final six weeks of last season at first base. If Santana were signed, Smith would either be dealt to another club or sent to Triple-A, where the Mets would look to build up his potential trade value.
But Santana could command a four-year contract, and the Mets will have competition for his services. And so, club officials are keeping an open mind as they search for pieces to complement Asdrubal Cabrera and Amed Rosario in the infield. The Mets do not seem inclined to pursue free-agent first baseman Eric Hosmer, who is represented by Scott Boras and could receive a contract worth upwards of $100 million. Another Boras client, third baseman Mike Moustakas, falls into the same category.
At the general manager’s meetings, Mets assistant GM John Ricco indicated Smith and Wilmer Flores could still form a first-base platoon, with the club considering trade options that would bolster second base. Top possibilities include Jason Kipnis and Dee Gordon, both of whom are available.
Cabrera, whose 2018 option for $8.5 million was recently picked up, will likely be the starting third baseman, according to Ricco. But the Mets haven’t ruled out the possibility of acquiring a third baseman and shifting Cabrera to second.
“Based on what we saw at the end of the year, Cabrera we think played pretty well [at third] and we think that now he’s going to have a full spring training I think he can definitely play there,” Ricco said. “We are more likely to add at second base, but if a trade materializes where a third baseman fits, we do have the ability to move Asdrubal over [to second].”
“We do have some depth in certain areas, at the major league level, where we could do a major [league] for major [league] trade and fill for a need and then maybe go out and backfill on the market,” Ricco said. “That is one strategy we are talking about.”
Though the Mets are looking to cut a payroll that hit $155 million last season, Ricco is confident the team can add enough quality players to compete in 2018.
“We look at a team, see what the needs are, see what the market is and decide how aggressive we are going to be,” Ricco said. “Right now we are looking to add and it’s not always a payroll issue, it’s how much you want to give up in talent. I think we are going to be aggressive.”