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Since the day Cespedes signed, the Mets have talked openly of their need to trade away an outfielder. Behind closed doors, they narrowed the candidates to Bruce and Curtis Granderson, with a heavy preference to trading the former. The Mets need Granderson to man center field for them, at least against right-handed pitchers. And they covet his leadership.
That leaves Bruce, a perennial 25-plus home run hitter, who has not garnered the type of interest the Mets thought he might on the trade market. A heavy inventory of available outfielders has sapped the Mets' bargaining power, while a cluster of free agents has tantalized teams in need.
But a trade can, and likely will, still happen, with plenty of clubs poking around for outfield help.
Though the Orioles satisfied their need for a left-handed bat when they acquired Seth Smith last Friday, the Mariners have an outfield hole as a result. The Phillies also recently became the subject of rumors involving Bruce, while the Blue Jays have been an option all offseason. Any number of those teams could pick up the phone and acquire Bruce.
For the Mets, the issue is not their ability to trade Bruce, but their steadfastness in acquiring something valuable in return. The Mets do not simply want to dump Bruce and his $13 million salary off to the first willing bidder, even if clearing payroll space is a primary goal of theirs. To the contrary, they want something that can visibly help them -- either an arm for their bullpen or a bona fide prospect to boost their flagging farm system.
The Mets have a history of stubbornness in situations like this. Two years ago, they shopped first baseman Ike Davis all winter, only to hang onto him and trade him in April. A year later, the team unsuccessfully tried to shed starting pitcher Dillon Gee, ultimately designating him for assignment in June.
There's a chance the Mets fall into that same pattern again. But considering how much they need to free up cash to sign a reliever or two, that much is unlikely. With a month left in the offseason, it's a good bet the Mets will succeed in trading Bruce soon.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.