After three years of nothing but struggles in New York, the Mets have finally released Jason Bay (h/t Andrew Keh of The New York Times). This move leaves New York with a hole in their outfield and more money to spend. The Mets could turn to the trade market to pick up a new starting outfielder for next season.
New York have seen Scott Hairston, their most productive outfielder, become a free agent, and the outfielders that remain with the team are all big questions marks for 2013. Lucas Duda and Andres Torres both put up poor numbers last season, and it is unknown what Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin can do over the course of a full season.
Matt den Dekker could eventually join the Mets outfield, but he still needs more time in the minor leagues. He looked outmatched in Triple-A last season as he hit just .220 in 77 games after he was promoted.
Given the Mets' financial limitations, it is hard to see them picking up a solid free-agent outfielder (h/t Adam Rubin of ESPN New York). Instead, the Mets could look to make a trade to get themselves a player that could provide a strong one-two punch alongside David Wright.
One of the premier players that is on the block this winter is Justin Upton. The two-time All-Star is just 25 years old, and he already has two 20/20 seasons under his belt.
Upton has the potential to break out out and become a superstar as he reaches his prime.
However, the Arizona Diamondbacks have said that they will listen to offers on the talented young player, and there is a high probability that Upton is playing somewhere else next season (h/t Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports).
Mike Puma of the New York Daily News has reported that Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson is expected to meet with Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers to discuss a possible deal for Upton.
Acquiring a player like Upton will not be cheap. Puma mentioned Jon Niese's name in connection with Upton, and a deal will likely only just be starting there.
The Mets could need to send at least one or two other pieces to the Diamondbacks to make a deal happen.
Jefry Marte was rated as the Mets' 14th best prospect at the end of the season by Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, and Marte has the potential to reach the major leagues in 2013. The young third baseman hit .251 with nine home runs in Double-A last season as a 21-year-old.
Another interesting name that could be considered in a deal for Upton is Domingo Tapia. Mayo's 10th ranked Mets prospect, Tapia went 6-5 with a 3.98 ERA and a 8.4 K/9 rate in Single-A.
A package including Niese and one of these two prospects could be enough to seal the deal for the Mets. Upton would immediately make them a much better team.
While the Mets likely will not become playoff contenders with Upton in 2013, he does put them in a great position from that point on. Upton is signed through the 2015 season, and he could become a big part of the Mets turnaround.
Even though Upton is scheduled to make $9.75 million in 2013, the Mets could apply some of their savings from deferring part of Jason Bay's contract to the money that they would owe Upton.
Another benefit of picking up Upton would be that it could help the Mets re-sign David Wright. The Mets star third baseman has mentioned that he wants to play for a winner, and trading for Upton would help demonstrate the team's commitment to that goal.
With a core of Wright, Upton and Ike Davis to go along with R.A. Dickey and up-and-coming starters Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia, the Mets could be in a very good position to be contenders in the near future.