Happ, Contreras, and Robertson Among Mets’ “Top Choices” at the Trade Deadline?

The New York Mets are a very different team under the direct stewardship of Steve Cohen, the game’s richest owner. Cohen is hungry for a title and is seemingly willing to spend whatever it takes to put his team over the top. Remember, this is the guy for whom the infamous “Cohen Tax” bracket (a special spending threshold set at a level so high he’s the only owner expected to ever bump up against it) was created.

So far, Cohen has laid out plenty of cash and/or prospects for players like Max Scherzer, Francisco Lindor, Starling Marte, Javy Báez and others in pursuit of his goals, but he’s also come up short in the standings — New York missed the playoffs entirely last season and they have just a 1.5 game lead over the Braves this year in the NL East.

Needless to say, the team is expected to make another big splash before the Trade Deadline and Cohen is likely to push for one. The “pretty clear” needs, as Jon Heyman reports it at The New York Post, include another middle of the order bat and some bullpen help.

So where did they start looking? At the very top, of course, with Juan Soto and Shohei Ohtani. Unfortunately (for them), the chances of Cohen landing either superstar are reportedly very “slim.”

If they’re off the table, who’s left? The headline gave it away, but I’ll let Heyman connect the dots for you: “The Mets need to consider Josh Bell, Nelson Cruz, Ian Happ, Andrew Benintendi, Trey Mancini and Willson Contreras for that role.” That role being “more pop” and additional help against right-handed pitching.

Heyman continued: “Any of the half-dozen guys in the previous paragraph would suffice. But from here, the top choices would be Bell, Contreras and Happ. Sure, they aren’t Soto or Ohtani. But any of that trio would do nicely.”

We’ve discussed how well Contreras fits the 2022 Mets a lot lately (they have glaring needs behind the plate and at DH), but Happ could be a fit, as well. His ability to switch-hit and play across the outfield or at DH make him fairly easy for any team to integrate.

(And the All-Star status of both players certainly won’t hurt those fancy NY headlines, either. They sure do like their “name” players.)

As for help in the bullpen — we already know David Robertson is arguably the most sought-after rental reliever available. His success this season (1.88 ERA) and experience in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York is very attractive for teams certain to be playing meaningful games in October.

But still, Heyman lays out it plainly: “The pen was an issue from almost the start of things. They need a set-up man, and especially need a lefty. David Robertson, who Eppler knows from Yankees days, would make sense to set up.”

The wording there is confusing – but to clarify his point based on context: The Mets would like to go after a lefty reliever (he names a few later on) *in addition* to adding Robertson as the new, primary setup man.

And here’s where things get even more interesting.

In one of our last conversations about the Mets matching up with the Cubs on a deal for Contreras, we discussed the fact that New York’s farm system is a little too top heavy. There are 3-4 really great prospects and then a whole lot of meh. But at the same time, Contreras, alone, is probably not enough to get one of those tip-top names. So I wondered if we might be moving toward discussions of a combined deal, including one of the relievers, and that seems to be a distinct possibility.

The tough part for Cubs President Jed Hoyer will be deciding whether to trade each of his top pieces (Contreras, Happ, Robertson) alone or in package deals. And if he is open to pairing a couple guys together, remember, the Mets aren’t the only shop in town: