Mets outfield is a problem

Following the inclusion of Jay Bruce in the big Seattle trade, the Mets are left with four Major League outfielders under contract. The best hitter of them could miss most if not all of the upcoming season. The best fielder of the bunch is not known for his bat or durability and the other two are not exactly iron horses either. So, Brodie Van Wagenen should really be placing the same priority on an outfielder as a catcher and setup man.

Over the summer I compared Cespedes injury and surgery to Troy Tulowitzki in a blog post entitled We might not see Cespedes until 2020. Not promising. While there have been reports that our best right handed bat could return by the All-Star break, that seems awfully optimistic. The Mets need to operate as if he will miss the entire season. Our new GM speaks brashly about “win now and later” and “eliminating if’s” so clearly he doesn’t buy into that “let’s wait til so-and-so comes back” nonsense that has crushed this team’s hopes for years.

Juan Lagares is under contract and is by far our best defensive outfielder and our only true center fielder. In the brief period when he was healthy last season, his fancy retooled swing with the launch angle (you just read that in Steve Somers voice) showed promise. Problem is, Lagares, for all his tools, is the second most fragile position player on our team. To catch Travis d’Arnaud for the mantle however, he’d have to suffer a comically catastrophic off-season mishap like falling off a ski lift. If the season started today, Lagares would be our starting center fielder, which is not a reasonable plan. Ideally, he’s in a platoon with a lefty (Mallex Smith would have worked nicely) or serving as a reserve and late inning defensive replacement.

Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo, while differently skilled, have a lot in common. Both lefties are best suited to the corners where they are at least average fielders and can play center field in a pinch, but really don’t belong there. Both also have injury histories.

With Cespedes out, what is the likelihood of the other three avoiding the disabled list? In addition to trading away Bruce, the Mets also previously traded away Jose Bautista and moved on from Austin Jackson.  Right now our only reserves are infielders who could play outfield in a pinch like T.J. Rivera and Dominic Smith. Travis d’Arnaud‘s name was mentioned as a possibility as well but that could be the worst idea since Lucas Duda was seen sasquatching around left field.

If the Mets need to allocate too much of available money to landing a catcher and another reliever, there are many cheaper options out there than Bryce Harper, A.J. Pollock, and Michael Brantley. Those three, along with Andrew McCutcheon and Nick Markakis are the only free agent outfielders who posted better than a 2.0 WAR last season – four guys on the wrong side of 30 and one who wants to be paid like Jeff Bezos.

For a lefty center fielder to platoon with Lagares, the Mets could look to Jon Jay, Carlos Gomez or the recently non-tendered Billy Hamilton (that sound you just heard was Brian shrieking). For a righty bat to add some balance there’s everyone’s favorite Marwin Gonzalez, who can also provide infield depth. Other options include veterans like Melky Cabrera and Adam Jones. McCutcheon is out there as well but probably not a fit. There are seemingly a million veteran lefty corner outfielders out there – Markakis, Gerardo Parra, Carlos Gonzalez, et al. and when the dust settles the Mets could pick up someone like our old friend Curtis Granderson for a song. Should either Conforto or Nimmo get injured this would become a need, so it’s nice to know there are options.

What’s not an option is starting the season with our best outfielder on the disabled list and hoping the three that remain can stay healthy all year. And if Nimmo should be used in a trade, as the latest rumors have suggested, well, then suddenly we need several outfielders.

35 comments for “Mets outfield is a problem

  1. December 7, 2018 at 8:16 am

    Juan is a 5th outfielder, until proven differently. He may provide an adequate platoon. I’d love him to show differently and I believe he has the ability to do so…..but he is an If.

    Nimmo and Conforto can adequately man CF with a flank that could include Smith, McNeill, TJ…Marwyn Gonzales— Juan can finish games as needed….spot start.

    A Healthy AJ Pollock would be an amazing piece.

    • December 7, 2018 at 9:21 am

      I agree Eraff,

      I want the Mets to get Pollock and sign a CF type player to a minor league contract for depth in AAA.

      I’m more concerned with the Mets finding a solution to catcher than outfield.

      • Chris F
        December 7, 2018 at 12:28 pm

        +1 David

    • MattyMets
      December 7, 2018 at 9:58 am

      Staff, outfield defense matters.

  2. December 7, 2018 at 8:22 am

    Juan Lagares FB% 2017 – 28.8
    Juan Lagares FB% 2018 – 20.0

    Whatever success Lagares had in 2018 came about the way it always did – when he ran an ultra high BABIP. The hits were falling in at a .392 rate. Now, you can say it wasn’t a big enough sample. That’s fine. But you cannot say that it was launch angle.

    Billy Hamilton stinks. The idea of trading anything for Hamilton was ludicrous. The idea of having him get a bunch of PA is insane. But if you want to get Hamilton to be a defensive replacement and pinch runner and keep him to about 75 PA over a full season – that’s worth discussing.

    • Eraff
      December 7, 2018 at 8:35 am

      Woah.:./ 75 PA and pinch running? How does that work with today’s short benches? Hamilton might work as an “instead of Lagares”, but I don’t see adding him to a roster that includes Juan….and I’m not a Ham Fan

      Regarding Juan…. the ab’s, few as they were, looked the same as they did 4 years ago. He can swing at whatever angle he wants, he needs to recognize pitches he can hit and , maybe more importantly, those He cannot

      • December 7, 2018 at 9:21 am

        It all depends on what you value.

        Some people think the world revolves around retiring LHB and think carrying a reliever all year long to amass fewer than 30 IP is a good thing. In 2015 Randy Choate pitched in 71 games and amassed 27.1 IP. The Cardinals won 100 games that year.

        A quick count showed the Mets played 72 games last year where the final run difference was one or two runs. Hamilton as a def. replacement/PR could easily get into as many games as Choate and definitely participate in more innings. How many times did we see Reyes enter as a PR and then not even attempt a steal? I see 9 games as a PR and not one steal. I’m thinking Hamilton could change that.

        I’m not saying I would sign Hamilton for that role. But I think you can easily make a case that it’s a worthwhile role for some club.

        • MattyMets
          December 7, 2018 at 10:05 am

          Brian, I agree. Hamilton is worth nothing in trade and I would neither offer him a big contract nor a starting role. However he can play centerfield pretty well and brings a speed element this team is missing. Having him as a 5th OF who gets used sparingly but strategically has value. If he can e had on modest contract I’d go for it.

          As for AJ Pollock, we’ve seen this movie before, starring Grady Sizemore, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Gomez, Dexter Fowler… CFs of that variety don’t age well. Check back on Lorenzo Cain in a year or two.

        • Chris F
          December 7, 2018 at 12:31 pm

          I completely agree Brian. Hamilton is not a baseball player. Id rather hire the guy that runs on the warning track in Atlanta games than take on Hamilton.

          The idea of holding down a 25 moan roster spot for Hamilton makes me ill. It says we only need 24 players.

          Hamilton was non-tendered by the Reds.

          Hamitlon was non-tendered by the Reds.

          repeat…

        • Eraff
          December 7, 2018 at 12:37 pm

          Brian…. I said that I would consider Ham iF there were no Lagares— but I don’t see a 75ab/PR role being as successful as a Loogy…and I think I know that You hate the Loogy Proposition almost absolutely.

          If what you’re really saying is that a speedy defensive 5th outfielder makes sense…well, Juan can do that….and I agree

  3. Mike Walczak
    December 7, 2018 at 8:51 am

    No matter what we do, we need another outfielder. But, you all have detailed the challenges that we face. I really like the versatility that Marwen brings to the table. I don’t like Hamilton because he cant hit and get on base.

  4. Chris F
    December 7, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    Ok, Ill say it because Im thinking it.

    The silence and soft denial on going big … b-i-g … is taking me one place.

    Some things my head keeps connecting:
    We are not in on Machado and Harper. An hour on Francesa with everyone. Van Wheelindealin saying this is an unrelenting pursuit to win. First time ever we hear about the reinvestment of insurance money. Possible trades involving young OF. Win now and down the road. BVW saying >5 years is too far down the road to worry about now.

    Some time next week BVW, Jeffy, and Bryce Harper will have a presser announcing a 10/325 contract, putting Harper in the Orange and Blue with his best 7+ years in front of him.

    Oh yeah, and Realmuto will be coming as C moving Nimmo in addition Rosario or Gimenez.

    • JimO
      December 7, 2018 at 2:46 pm

      I am thinking this too but if we add Harper and subtract Nimmo, we are still one OF short.

    • December 7, 2018 at 5:08 pm

      Back in the first week of November I declared that after Craig Kimbrel that Harper should be the Mets’ top target. And they don’t need Kimbrel now.

      That one didn’t get too many comments and none of them agreed with me. Welcome to the bandwagon!

      • Chris F
        December 7, 2018 at 6:19 pm

        ya know, I just wouldnt allow myself to think that…but with BVW, things feel very different.

        Nats now out of Harper.

        A lot of $ coming off the Mets books in a couple years.

        I dont know…I just got creaky bones on this one.

        by the way…awesome podcast with Vasile!

  5. TexasGusCC
    December 7, 2018 at 10:07 pm

    I share the excitement, but what’s better:

    Harper, Zamora and Maldonado

    Grandal, Pollack and Miller/Britton

    Tough call. I think I like the second one, but I can try to the first…

    Everyone bringing up Lagares’ average-ish offense and not bringing up the all-world glove is missing the big picture. Look at him as Paul Blair (who the Mets also had) on those dynastic Orioles teams. Everyone has a role.

    • TexasGusCC
      December 8, 2018 at 2:00 am

      I just did something: I looked at Pollock’s stats. He sucks. And that’s while playing in arguably the number hitter’s park, because Chase Field and colors are tight and sometimes flip-flop. And we redicule Lagares?

      Of the options available, Harper, Eddie Jones, Pollock and McCutchen, obviously I’d love to have Harper (and wrote about it two years ago, but not really believing…) then McCutchen, then Jones, then Lagares, then McNeil, then Hamilton, then Pollock.

      But I think McCutchen is the best value.

      • Mike Walczak
        December 8, 2018 at 8:51 am

        Eddie Jones, he’s the best. Had his best years with the Lakers.

      • December 8, 2018 at 1:19 pm

        Gus…you’re just Cranky because you Miss Flo.

        AJ Sucks???? 805 OPS is not good enough…or is it the Injuries?

        • TexasGusCC
          December 8, 2018 at 1:41 pm

          It’s all walks, which are not as good as a hot. Further, check his oWAR on Baseball Reference: negative two out of three years.

          • Name
            December 8, 2018 at 3:44 pm

            You sure you are looking at the correct page?

            I don’t see how anyone could come to the conclusion that Lagares is undervalued based on looking at Pollack’s stats. They are totally different hitters. The only thing that is similar is neither are ever healthy.

            • TexasGusCC
              December 8, 2018 at 3:42 pm

              I didn’t say we undervalue Lagares, I said that after seeing Polloack’s stats, we shouldn’t knock Lagares’. Not only does Pollock benefit from playing half his games in either the best or the second best offensive producing park (depending on whether Coors is first that year or Chase is) but even with that help, I’m not impressed by Pollock’s numbers. And now we want to put him in Citifield?

              What I also said earlier is that anyone who writes Lagares off because of his offensive numbers, doesn’t understand that his whole career has been defensively valued foremost and offense was secondary.

              Unfortunately, whenever I post comment in the middle of the night, my comments come out weird the next morning.

              • Name
                December 8, 2018 at 4:49 pm

                I still don’t get the connection. So you think Pollack is overrated… what does that have to do with Lagares?

                Are you trying to say Lagares would out-hit Pollack if they both played in Citi Field….

                • TexasGusCC
                  December 8, 2018 at 7:15 pm

                  Yes, Pollock is overrated.

                  Lagares would be the better overall player, but since you put me on the spot, Yes, I’ll take Lagares to outhit Pollock at Citifield.

  6. TJ
    December 8, 2018 at 12:00 am

    My two cents –
    Lagares is an asset if deployed properly. Watching him play CF in person is a thing of beauty. However, entering his age 30 season and coming off a serious foot injury, he may be more of a plus defender than a plus plus defender.

    Harper would certainly inprove the line up, as would Machado, but what concerns me with the Mets is that if they actually shocked the world an landed one of the big boys, they would wind up with 4 to 5 weak links on the 25 man roster. Wouldd they really add a quality catcher and two quality arms to the pen if they splurged for $300+ million on one player?

    My preference is to have BVW build a 25 man roster with every single player at average or above for their role. Eliminate the “Reyes/Nido/Lobaton” at-bats and the “Sewald/Rhame/Peterson” innings and they should be greatly improved.

    • December 8, 2018 at 7:24 am

      That’s a nice goal but the reality is that every team is going to have PA or IP go to people who aren’t good. The Red Sox won 108 games last year and they gave 143 PA to Ian Kinsler, who put up a 64 OPS+ and 288 PA to Sandy Leon who put up a 37 OPS+ and 502 PA to Eduardo Nunez who put up an 81 OPS+

      • TJ
        December 8, 2018 at 9:04 am

        Brian,
        Agreed. It’s just my suggestion/fear with this team. The pen was god awful and still needs multiple pieces. Vargas was horrible for almost all of his 92 innings. Reyes and Flores played way too much and contributed a net negative WAR. And we aren’t even obsessing over catcher.

        If they were able to bring in Harper and get average solutions to those issues, hey, I am on board. But if they bring in Harper and we have Jose back getting 300 ABs with Sewald and Rhame trying to get the ball to Diaz, I don’t they’ll have a legit shot at the NL East.

        The bottom line is that there is little margin for error, Brodie needs to nail his next 4 moves.

        • Mike Walczak
          December 8, 2018 at 1:59 pm

          I think we will see some moves this coming week at the winter meetings. Let’s hope we are pleasantly surprised. Anad thing would be if he makes a big move and then is unable to backfill the holes that he created with the first move.

          Go Brodie! Certainly more exciting than Alderson’s stifling reluctance and timidness.

    • MattyMets
      December 8, 2018 at 6:38 pm

      I agree, but one thing all sports have in common is that stars win rings. No, you can’t win with just one who doesn’t have the supporting cast (Dan Marino, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Mike Trout, etc etc). In baseball, ideally, you have two stars in the lineup, two in the rotation and one in the bullpen. Then surround those five with solid, dependable players and some depth. I’m not saying Harper or Machado is all that separates us from the WS, but without Cespedes, our lineup is weak to mediocre and imbalanced. The Mets need another star and a few more dependable pieces. Maybe the Wilpons open the checkbook for BVW the way they did for Omar.

      Editor’s Note – Capitals, Matty, really?

  7. Herb Goldstein
    December 8, 2018 at 8:59 pm

    Late to the party, Brian, but I will always put my 2 cents in. As you know, every problem represents an opportunity.

    If BVW can convince Jeff to apply the insurance money for Cespedes to a Harper deal, and they backload it some, there is no reason they cannot go hard after him.

    12 years/$400 million- spread yrs 1&2: $20 M each, yrs 3-12: $36 M each,
    with opt outs after years 4 and 7.

    • TexasGusCC
      December 9, 2018 at 1:35 am

      Herbie, where you be? I can give him 4/$140, but not 12/$400. The Nationals’ 10/$300 offer was kind of nice, but in typical Boras fashion, they want more. I’m wondering where Boras thinks it’s going to come from? Does he think everyone will be like the Padres and bail out his client like when Hosmer was on the verge of an epic mistake of turning down the Royals’ 6/$122 offer only to get a 7/$144 offer in the second half of January from the Friars?

  8. TexasGusCC
    December 9, 2018 at 2:02 am

    From our friends at MLBTR:

    “With Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig possibly on the outs in Los Angeles, the Mets figure to at least inquire on the 28-year-old, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Puig would give the Mets another right-handed outfielder, which is on general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s wish list, without having to make a long-term commitment. He’s only under control for another year, at a projected $11.3MM.”

    They need a front line pitcher. How about Wheeler and McNeil for Puig and Verdugo? Looked at Urias but his lack of command bothers me.

    Sign Lance Lynn for replace Wheeler.

    • Chris F
      December 9, 2018 at 10:24 am

      no

  9. MattyMets
    December 9, 2018 at 9:36 am

    Yasiel Puig is an interesting possibility. I know he’s a mercurial guy but as long as there’s no big truth to the conflict with Cespedes (don’t want invite clubhouse drama) he could be a smart pick up. Right handed power hitter with a rocket arm. Only one year remaining in contract and could be had for a few mid tier prospects I bet. No long commitment, could be a reasonable facsimile if Cespedes til he gets back. Nimmo can split time in CF with Lagares and play the corners as well. Makes a lot more sense than committing 4 or 5 years to injury prone A.J. Pollock or bringing yet another lefty.

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