The Mets have been playing better recently, and appear to be sneaking up on the Phillies and the Nationals in the standings. They are heading in the right direction, but there are still moves that Sandy Alderson needs to make — one of which regards the outfield. Alderson is likely to pursue an outfielder, and may even be adventurous enough to try to acquire one by the trade deadline. However, when Alderson acquires an outfielder, someone else’s job manning the outfield in Flushing will end. It seems as though Juan Lagares is the only player likely to be in the outfield every day next year.
It’s questionable as to whether the Mets should retain Marlon Byrd, as he has easily been the Mets’ best outfielder this season and has provided a ton of pop in the lineup with an ISO of .236 and 17 homers. On the flip side, Byrd is 35 and will probably be asking for more money than he is worth next year thanks to the rejuvenation of his career here in 2013. With a really good season, we can expect some regression to the mean the following year. This makes it all the more likely that Alderson will let Byrd go to another team next year.
Eric Young, Jr. has been a nice addition to the Mets, providing some speed to the lineup. He’s another player who can play the outfield slightly better than Lucas Duda. Despite Young’s ability to be aggressive on the basepaths, he’s still hasn’t been better than Duda, and in fact he’s a below replacement level with a WAR of -0.4. The good news for Young is that he still doesn’t have six years of major league service time, so the Mets are likely to retain him. It’s unlikely that he will end up being an everyday outfielder for the Mets, but he could be a very useful role player.
The youngest player of the Mets’ core, Lagares makes the most sense to be an everyday player. Lagares has come with his fair share of growing pains, in that he hasn’t really been all that useful with the bat. In fact, he’s been similar to Josh Hamilton this season except without the power. Just for amusement, I created a table with Hamilton’s and Lagares’ statistics from this season:
Basically, Lagares has been like Hamilton except without the home runs — and he’s making the minimum as opposed to $20 million a year. Obviously Lagares isn’t going to be Hamilton, but all amusement aside, Lagares could turn into a decent center fielder. His approach is not great. He doesn’t walk at all with a BB% of 3.6%, which ranks in the lower half of the league. If Lagares is going to be somewhat helpful with his bat he will have to somehow hit for a higher average because he just doesn’t get on base enough. However, Lagares is probably going to derive most of his value from defense.
Assuming that Duda either moves to first or is traded, Lagares is the only outfielder who has earned himself a starting role next year. He’s also the only outfielder who has been above replacement level this year and isn’t 35 years old. If the Mets plan on giving Lagares an everyday role next year, they may as well give him chance to start every day for the rest of the season. He’s shown some potential with his glove, and he’s improved with bat since his call-up. #freelagares