PORT ST. LUCIE — The Mets covet Joe Panik. They discussed working out a deal for the Giants’ All-Star second baseman internally this winter, a front office source said. The Giants need a center fielder and they — and other teams — have expressed interest in former Gold Glove center fielder Juan Lagares.
But, realistically, that is not a deal the Mets want to make right now, the source said.
Talk of a straight-up trade of Panik for Lagares started Tuesday, but by the morning the Mets’ front office and industry insiders were downplaying the possibility. First, the Giants would have to get more than just Lagares back for Panik and the Mets’ list of prospects is very thin. Second, the Mets are concerned about their outfield depth at this point.
With Michael Conforto continuing his rehab from last fall’s dislocated shoulder and surgery to repair the anterior capsule, the Mets do not know who their Opening Day center fielder will be. Conforto is not expected back until May, so they are planning to platoon Lagares and Nimmo there.
“There’s a long way to go. We’re excited about either option at this point and we’re going to see how spring training plays out and then do what we think is best for the team when the time comes to make some kind of decision,” Mickey Callaway said Wednesday.
“We’re already looking for outfielders to possibly bring in to camp for insurance and we’ve got enough infielders,” the source said. “(Panik) was a player that was discussed very early on, right now I would say it’s not something that’s on the radar.”
But trading Lagares eventually this year isn’t exactly a wild notion.
His contract calls for him to make $6.5 million this year, $9 million in 2019 and there is a $500,000 buyout for 2020. After winning the 2014 Gold Glove and signing a contract extension in the spring of 2015, Lagares has not been able to crack the starting lineup after the addition of Yoenis Cespedes at the trade deadline that year.
He has missed time with elbow and hand injuries and while he is a tremendous defensive asset, he continues to struggle at the plate.
He hit .250 with a .296 on-base percentage in 272 at-bats last season. He is a career .257 hitter with a .297 on-base and .366 slugging percentages. This winter he spent time working with a coach to try and elevate his launch angle and find some more power. He came to Port St. Lucie looking stronger and excited about the opportunity to play more. The Mets are curious to see him this season, intrigued by the changes he has made to his swing.
Callaway, a first-time manager, held his first meeting with players Wednesday. He gathered the pitchers and catchers in the spring training complex weight room to give his camp-opening speech.
“It really was just to stress how important, we think especially this routine they have when they arrive to the field,” Callaway said. “They have certain expectations when they get to the field that day. We want them to get checked out the right way to make sure they can go on the field and be ready to play. It was just to stress the importance of that.”
Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland are big believers that the work the pitchers do individually off the mound will help keep them healthy and lead to success on the field.
“It was just about routines. Clear and simple. I think that I’m going to have a chance to address everybody in the organization when we start full-squad workouts but today was about routines and processes. If we want to do something special we have to be on point with those things,” Callaway said.
“We used the word accountability a lot. We want them to know that we’re going to hold them accountable for those things. Big day, I thought it was really good for them to hear and that’s why we started it where we started it but we feel those things are going to really help us.”