Kirk Nieuwenhuis: What role does he have in 2013?

The Mets need outfield help. You, I and the family pet all know this much. It’s so obviously evident, that the Mets should post a Craigslist ad asking for outfield help!

One current Mets’ outfielder who stands a decent chance of cracking the starting rotation is Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

Scott Hairston and Andres Torres are likely gone (especially Torres), as they are soon to be free agents. We are also in limbo as to what to do with Jason Bay. Will he get cut; will he start (hopefully not) or will he be permanently glued to the bench in the final year of his contract? Mike Baxter is a good reserve and pinch-hitting extraordinaire but nothing more. And lastly, it’s readily apparent that the Mets want nothing to do with Lucas Duda in the outfield anymore.

So, that leaves Nieuwenhuis as perhaps the only capable outfielder in the system who could be of any use to the Mets in 2013. (The Mets have also stated their desire to move Jordany Valdespin to utility infield spot)

However, some questions still arise concerning the future of Nieuwenhuis. Where exactly do you put him in the outfield? Do you take a risk and avoid all trade overtures and free agent possibilities and pencil in Nieuwenhuis as your everyday center fielder? After all, the Mets don’t really have other internal possibilities for center field. Outside of Matt den Dekker, who is still very raw and in need of more seasoning, you may have to put Nieuwenhuis in center by default.

Or do you perhaps put Nieuwenhuis in either left or right field and hope you strike gold in acquiring a legit center fielder before opening day?

Either way, Nieuwenhuis is an enigma and his future role with this squad is murky.

Nieuwenhuis enjoyed a fine start upon being called up in early April and had Mets’ fans excited about how he played the game. Nieuwenhuis is your ultimate gamer. He plays with a balls-to the-wall attitude and that’s something Mets’ fans appreciate.

Is that enough though? While Nieuwenhuis plays the field well and has above-average speed, his batting skills still leave a lot to be desired.

For the first two months of the season, Nieuwenhuis was looking like a capable hitter and as late as June 3 he was batting .301. However, it went all downhill from there. Opposing pitchers caught up with Nieuwenhuis and he was exposed. Nieuwenhuis had trouble catching up with good fastballs and was continuously chasing after too many pitches. After striking out three times and lowering his batting average to .252 in a game at Arizona on July 28, Nieuwenhuis was optioned to Buffalo the next day.

Things did not get much better for Nieuwenhuis in Buffalo, as his season was cut short in late August when he went down with a partially torn plantar fascia in his right foot. The good news is that he did not need surgery. The bad news is that Nieuwenhuis simply can never stay healthy and is too strikeout prone to most fans’ liking.

It’s really doubtful that the Mets will completely overhaul the outfield (meaning replace the whole outfield), so someone on the current Mets roster has to be counted on.

Nieuwenhuis will be given his shot, but he has to work hard in the offseason and have a good spring training in order to restore the faith some have in him. It wasn’t that long along we were singing the praises of this gritty ballplayer, but his flaws are too hard to ignore. Nieuwenhuis has to make a lot of adjustments before he can become a trusted member of the outfield.

Nieuwenhuis is a big wild card for the Mets. What do you they have in him? Is he a starter or a fourth outfielder? This is something the Mets will have to answer and weigh very carefully in the offseason.

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12 comments for “Kirk Nieuwenhuis: What role does he have in 2013?

  1. October 19, 2012 at 8:50 am

    I don’t think the Mets approach the offseason thinking Nieuwenhuis plays one position and they have to find people for other spots. I think Nieuwenhuis’ position is totally dependent on who they acquire. If they get a CF then he’s a corner. If they don’t get a CF, he’s the man in the middle.

    I think he can handle CF on a short-term basis. But if he’s the starting CF there absolutely has to be a backup on the roster who can be more than an emergency starter in center. As you point out, he’s been injury-prone the past few years.

  2. Metsense
    October 19, 2012 at 9:15 am

    NL Avg: 15 HR, 64 RBI, .740 OPS
    Torres: 3 HR, 35 RBI, .664 OPS (-76 OPS)
    Nieuwenhuis : 7 HR, 28 RBI, .691 OPS (-49 OPS)
    Valdespin: 8 HR, 26 RBI, .710 OPS (-30 OPS)

    Andres Torres should be non tendered.
    Kirk Nieuwenhuis should have the advantage going into spring training.
    Jordany Valdespin is a dark horse to beat Kirk out but the team wants him at second base in winter ball which indicates to me he is just an emergency back up at center.
    Matt Den Decker would have to have a very good spring to get the job. If Valdespin and Nieuwenhuis don’t hit by June then Den Decker might get the job just because of his glove.
    The Mets second weakest offensive position is center field but they do have three young center fielders that show some potential to be average at the position. I’m not confident that any of the three are starting corner outfielders because of lack of corner power. If the Mets had money and could afford their salaries I would be on the Chris Young, Dexter Fowler (and others) trade bandwagon and be trading any of the three Met young centerfielders.

  3. HobokenMetsFan
    October 19, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Hopefully Kirk is doing nothing but taking A LOT of swings against LHP this offseason…..

  4. David Groveman
    October 19, 2012 at 10:28 am

    I think the Matt Den Dekker has the potential to demand a job this Spring. Of the people the Mets have that are remotely close to the majors, he’s got the impact bat that fits the outfield. We’ll also get a long look at Wilmer Flores and Reese Havens.

  5. Mack Ade
    October 19, 2012 at 11:15 am

    David, den Dekker is a year away.

    Unless someone joins this team in the off-season, “House” will be given the job to either win or lose it. Like Duda, he will prove his future value to this team in the field.

  6. TJ
    October 19, 2012 at 11:37 am

    They need an external solution for CF/leadoff hitter. Optimal would be if the same guy filled both. Oh, and they need to get this done with virtually no $$$.Captain Kirk and the Dude can battle for a role based on whether they can acquire a power RH bat. Time for Sandy to earn his payola.

    • October 19, 2012 at 12:18 pm

      With all the dissatifaction in the Bronx, the solution just might be Curtis Granderson, with the NYY kicking in half of the $13 mil. he’s owed for 2013. (Ducks flying debris.)

  7. Name
    October 19, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    I’m not sure if this is a fair trade, but how about Parnell for Nori Aoki of the Brewers?
    Aoki is cheap(1.25m with a 1.5M option for next season), Has good spead(30 SB to 8CS), and can play the OF.
    The Brewers bullpen is in shambles and might take a look at Parnell as a potential closer candidate, or at the worst, a late-inning reliever.

  8. Tom
    October 19, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    In all likelihood, Jason Bay is gone. They just haven’t said that because they want him to have trade value for a potential swap with other bad contracts (i.e. Heath Bell/John Buck). You never know too if Santana could be conjoined and they look for a bigger swap (i.e. Swapping multiple bad contracts like Santana/Bay for Carl Crawford). Crawford would be due 52.5 million more than what Santana/Bay are due and could potentially be a useful player to the Mets unlike what either Bay or probably Santana too could offer the Mets next year. If it were Santana and Bay the Red Sox would’ve had to taken on instead of Crawford back when they got Gonzalez, they probably would’ve been happier to save all that money. So I’d have to think such a deal could be possible.

    Within what they have, Duda is staying. He’s not going to get them a lot elsewhere. He’ll probably be in LF with Baxter and/or Turner occasionally spotting him. CF is going to be Nieuwy if they don’t get someone via trade. I doubt it’ll be Chris Young if they can’t afford the same annual rate Bourn and Victorino are looking for. Trying to get Pagan back is another idea. Trading pitching prospects (i.e. Mejia, McHugh) for Fowler could be an idea though. RF will be Valdespin, den Dekker or some internal option if they can’t get some too, unfortunately. If they did have money, using Nieuwy/den Dekker in CF and trading for Kubel seems like a possibility too. If they could get ARZ to eat a bad contract like Frank Francisco and quality potential arbitration rises like Parnell, they could go after Young and Kubel in the same deal. There are lots of ideas here but not of these options really are great ones. They’ll need to be willing to spend to improve their team.

    • Name
      October 19, 2012 at 7:15 pm

      Your first paragraph is a little bit confusing, but i think you meant to say Dodgers instead of Red Sox, right?
      I highly highly doubt you will be able to swap Both Santana and Bay into one deal. That’s almost $50 million next year(including buyouts). There are no teams that have that much bad contract simply for next season to swap with the Mets. I also highly doubt that teams would take on that much next year for future salary relief.

      I also disagree with your statement that Jason Bay is gone. Based on what Sandy has been saying, Jason Bay is a lock for the opening day roster. I think that they will give him one final chance to be a regular, and then if he fails at that, he will be given a chance to be a bench player. Only after all options are exhausted will they can cut him. Nothing Sandy has said has indicated that he will cut Jason Bay this offseason, because if that’s the case, he would have done it long ago.

  9. Tom
    October 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Also, Torres could be brought back as a 4th OF and a useful right-handed bat on the bench. But he obviously won’t be offered arbitration because he could be had for much less money (much like Pelfrey). If Nieuwenhuis isn’t a starter or platoon OF though and isn’t traded, he might fit more in as a 4th OF. Yes he could have more seasoning in AAA, especially given that late season injury, but they really need to assess his potential. I do think he’d have value in a deal for Fowler or someone else though.

  10. Metsfan
    October 20, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    He’s almost definitely a fourth outfielder…but that’s not to say a good fourth outfielder isn’t a good thing to have. Of course, given that we lack an outfielder that’s starting caliber for the Astros, he’ll probably find himself getting most of the reps in CF for the 2013 season.

    I am a Nieuwenhuis fan, if only because as weak as his skills are on their own, he does have a broad set of them. I could deal with watching him all year if they wouldn’t insist on trying to sell Duda as an outfielder.

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