The word came down last night: Michael Bourn – the last “real” outfielder on the free agent market – had signed a four-year, $48 million contract with the Cleveland Indians. The pact also included an easily-achievable incentive option for a fifth season, which could bring the total figure to $60 million. In other words, a Boras Special. Initial reports indicated that the Mets offered a nearly identical package — sans fifth-year option – and that New York was really Bourn’s first choice, but the sticking point was the two-to-three weeks it would have taken for MLB to rule on whether or not the team’s #11 draft choice was actually protected.
So that pipe dream goes down and goes down hard. Where, then, does this leave the Mets? Barring anything unforeseen, the Opening Day outfield shapes up to be Lucas Duda in left field, Kirk Nieuwenhuis in center and Mike Baxter around in right. It’s not exactly Ken Henderson/Willie Mays/Bobby Bonds. Hell, it may not even be Mookie Wilson/Lee Mazzilli/Ellis Valentine. It looks woefully short on power, defense and experience. Duda might hit a couple of long homers and Nieuwenhuis has some speed and Baxter is what this columnist would call a “clutch” defender, but to the naked eye, there appears to be very little else to get excited about. This, of course is based on what we all “know” – the evidence at hand points to a rough road for this outfield in 2013.
There is, however, a boatload about the 2013 outfield that we don’t know. We don’t know what Collin Cowgill brings to the party. We don’t know how Matt Den Dekker might react to getting a long look as a non-roster invitee this spring. We don’t know if Marlon Byrd — another NRI — has anything left. We don’t know if Jordany Valdespin has his head screwed on straight. Terry Collins took today’s official first day of pitchers & catchers to throw down the gauntlet: opportunities are here if you want ‘em. Reminiscent of the original 1962 vaudeville troupe, there are chances for players with the ability, desire and drive to be beyond – in Collins’ words – “just satisfied with making the big league club.” The next six weeks or so will be the proving ground, will bring more into focus all those things we don’t know. It could be fun to find out what we have right in front of us.
It could also be torture.
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