Subtracting Bruce from that mix may open up some playing time for Nimmo and Lagares. That was the message conveyed by Alderson, although he noted that not everyone in the outfield would have the same amount of playing time.
And with Bruce gone, and an everyday spot in the lineup now opened up, it became easier for the Mets to summon Smith, who was the Mets’ first round pick in 2013 and is known for his contact bat and smooth fielding. He was a career .302 hitter in the minor leagues, including a .330 average with 16 homers, 76 runs batted in and a .905 on-base-plus-slugging percentage at Class AAA Las Vegas this season.
“We want to get a look at him beyond a typical September call-up,” Alderson said, although the Mets have heard criticism for weeks that they were already taking too long to get Smith into a major league uniform.
In any case, he is here now and, Alderson noted, he will able to acclimate to the majors on the road, in a series against the Phillies with nothing at stake, before the Mets begin a far more intense four-game set against the Yankees on Monday.
And it is the Yankees who became part of the discussion around the Bruce trade. It turned out the Yankees, who can use a left-handed power bat to complement the right-handed power of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, were actively bidding for Bruce, only to see the Mets send him to the Indians, one of their American League rivals.
In exchange, the Indians sent the Mets a minor league relief pitcher, Ryder Ryan. The Indians also picked up the rest of Bruce’s $13 million salary this season, which represents a saving to the Mets of about $4 million.
Ryan was the fifth relief prospect acquired by the Mets over the past two weeks. The Mets netted four others in trading Lucas Duda and Addison Reed, also pending free agents, in separate deals before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline. Both players went to division rivals of the Yankees, with Duda going to Tampa Bay and Reed to Boston.
Although Ryan was not ranked among the Indians’ top 30 prospects, the Mets’ scouts and analytics staff like his potential. A converted infielder, his fastball sits in the mid-90s.
The Mets could have kept Bruce and offered him an $18 million qualifying offer at the end of the season, which would have netted a third-round pick should Bruce have rejected the offer and signed elsewhere.
But Alderson said he was not enamored of that option. Instead, the Mets traded a player who had 29 home runs and 75 R.B.I. this season and was well-regarded in the clubhouse. The Mets could pursue him the off-season, when he will be a free agent, and Alderson said the team would keep the “lines of communication open.’’
“He’s pleased he’s going to be with a contender for the final month and a half,” Alderson said of Bruce.
As for the Yankees, they offered the Mets two prospects, whose identities have not been revealed, but only $1 million to offset Bruce’s remaining salary. The Mets’ decision to take the Indians’ offer, and pass on the one from the Yankees, naturally raised questions about the Mets’ willingness to deal with their crosstown rival, particularly in a season when they are not playing well and the Yankees are.
Asked about that factor, Alderson did not dispute the notion that it was harder to make deals with rivals than with other teams.
“Dealing with the Yankees would be a factor, just as dealing with the Washington Nationals would be a factor,” he said.
“I think it would be foolish for me to say it doesn’t matter,’’ he added, “but at the same time, it is prohibitive? No.”
Alderson hinted that the Mets and the Yankees nearly pulled off a different deal, perhaps for infielder Neil Walker. That did not happen, either. Still, with the Mets going nowhere, more trades could be coming.
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