Now they can put themselves in a similar position by stealing away a 25-year-old dynamic outfielder who finished fourth in the NL MVP voting in 2011.
While the situation differs in that the Arizona Diamondbacks are not forced to trade Upton, the lingering rumors put them in a position to receive a valuable package of players rather than keep the player that they have shopped on numerous occasions.
It seems curious that any team would be dangling such an enviable player, especially one that is under contract to a team-friendly three-year deal with $38.5 million remaining.
With all of this back-and-forth, it is eerily reminiscent to the 2007-08 offseason in which rumors swirled that the New York Yankees were the most aggressive team pursuing Santana.
Ultimately, the deal fell through and that's when Mets' GM Omar Minaya swooped in and offered a package of four prospects—granted none were elite—including Philip Humber, Carlos Gomez, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra.
Would the acquisition of Justin Upton make this offseason a success?
The Diamondbacks will certainly not be foolish or desperate enough to accept such a mediocre package, however, the Mets' system is deep enough now that they can offer a more respectable group of players.
Any conversation about Upton will elicit a steep asking price. In terms of the Mets' system, every team desires Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey.
That won't happen.
Sandy Alderson will need to use the negotiating skills he used to acquire Travis d'Arnaud and get creative.
If I'm Alderson, I would center a deal around Wilmer Flores and Bobby Parnell.
While neither of these players possess the credentials that make GMs become enamored, they are underrated to the masses.
The 28-year-old Parnell is a middle reliever that has the arsenal to become a closer highlighted by his 99-MPH fastball. In 2012 he really developed into a more complete pitcher as he decreased his WHIP and BB/9 substantially while posting a solid 3.05 K/BB ratio.
His best years may still be ahead, which makes it difficult to part ways with him. On the other hand, he's the type of player it takes to acquire another proven commodity.
Parnell is not just a hard-throwing prospect, he is now an established pitcher that would be an asset to almost any team's bullpen.
I would then pair him with 21-year-old prospect Wilmer Flores to sweeten the trade offer.
Flores has been mentioned among the inner circles of baseball since he was signed in 2007 as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela.
Fans had astronomical expectations of him once scouts began uttering comparisons of the great Miguel Cabrera, also a native of Venezuela.
Flores has never lacked in his hitting ability.
He set a high bar for himself by posting an .842 OPS as a 16-year-old in the Appalachian League.
Many were blown away by his accomplishment, I was more inclined to withhold my judgement considering Mets' fans felt the same about Fernando Martinez at that age. Also, he was a dreadful infielder.
Perhaps he was doomed by the fact that his height of 6'3" makes it extremely difficult to play shortstop. He proved that by making 21 errors in 67 games that season.
Flores has since moved to third base and will experiment at second, but both of those positions are blocked by players under contract with the Mets.
This is why he is the ideal prospect to trade while his value is at its peak. In fact, it will be hard to increase anymore as he is coming off an exceptional year while being named the Sterling Organizational Player of the Year.
Since two players may not be enough to get the deal done, I would also include any other prospect outside of the top four in the organization.
If it is young power pitchers that the Diamondbacks desire, the Mets should offer Jeurys Familia or Rafeal Montero, a 22-year-old who saw his stock rise after posting a 2.13 ERA and 5.09 K/BB in 2012.
Even if the Diamondbacks' GM Kevin Towers is asking for a higher quality of players, he will soon realize that a) each week that Upton remains on the team the demand will decrease and b) he can allocate their roster better by trading Upton.
Precisely how the Twins felt in February of 2008.
If the Mets could acquire Upton without dealing their best three prospects it would be considered a tremendous steal for New York.
The vacated spot in the bullpen could be filled internally or by acquiring one of the remaining veteran free agents relievers.
Upton would fill in at right field and help out a lineup that was devoid of right-handed power. Additionally, he would be a player that could help both now and in the future.
If he performs the way he did in 2011, their expected date of contention could speed up that much quicker.