The Mets also engaged in direct talks for Zobrist, who like Desmond is entering his free-agent year. But the Rays again wanted two top prospects, and the Mets said no.
Instead, the Rays traded Zobrist and Escobar for John Jaso, a potential free agent; shortstop Daniel Robertson, the Athletics’ No. 1 prospect according to Baseball America; outfielder Boog Powell, who led the team’s minor leaguers with a .451 on-base percentage at Class A last season; and $1.5 million.
The Rays-Nationals-Mets discussion was one of about a dozen potential deals the Rays pondered for Zobrist, sources said. The mere talks, however, revealed the following:
* The Mets still are looking to upgrade over their current shortstops, Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada. But they are unwilling to part with top prospects for players who – at least in theory – they could sign as free agents next off-season while losing only a draft pick.
* The Nationals remain willing to trade Desmond, and evidently preferred the double-play combination of Escobar and Zobrist to Desmond and their current second baseman, Danny Espinosa.
Escobar, guaranteed $12 million over the next two seasons, could have served as a bridge to Trea Turner, the player to be named in the Nats’ three-team deal with the Rays and Padres.
Zobrist would have been a one-year bridge to second-base prospect Wilmer Difo and also could have played left field to start the season as Jayson Werth recovers from surgery on his right shoulder.
* The Nationals evidently were unconcerned that Desmond would have landed with the Mets, one of their division rivals. Rival executives say Nats GM Mike Rizzo generally moves aggressively when he knows what he wants in a deal.
* The Athletics were not the only team that pursued both Zobrist and Escobar once the Rays reached agreement with free-agent second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera; the Nationals had the same idea.
The Cubs and Giants were among the other teams that pursued Zobrist, who attracted interest from numerous other clubs as well.