3 ex-Mets singin’ the swan song

In the past week, former Mets Matt Harvey, Asdrubal Cabrera and Lucas Duda were released by their teams. Harvey’s attempt to resurrect his stalled career with the Angels came up way short as he put up embarrassing numbers. Duda had a similar experience before being cut loose by Kansas City. Cabrera was  slashing a modest .235/.318/.393 when he was released by the Rangers. Everyone’s favorite ex-Met, Curtis Granderson, may be next in line as the veteran has been hitting below the Mendoza line almost all season for the Marlins.

It’s a bit sad really as these players all hold their place in Mets history. For too short a period, Harvey electrified the whole city as the Dark Knight. Though the back of his baseball card may not reflect it – thanks largely to a lack of run support – Harvey had two brilliant seasons for the Mets and a very memorable post-season. At his peak, Harvey had mound presence and swagger to go along with a filthy arsenal of pitches. He can still throw 95 mph, but the extra ticks, the late movement and the trademark two-strike slider are all gone. Harvey is still young enough to attempt a comeback. Maybe with some rest, strength training and the right mentors he can find a second life as a back-of-the-rotation guy or reliever.

Mets fans have a tainted view of Duda as he made one of the most costly errors in the 2015 World Series. He’s also well-remembered for hitting home runs either with a big lead or no one on base. That said, the big guy was a likable, soft-spoken guy with a boyish farmboy charm and you never knew when he might launch one onto Shea Bridge. Plus, he was such a good sport about letting Granderson and others make him the butt of clubhouse gags and social media jokes.

Granderson left an indelible mark on the Mets organization just through his charitable and community efforts. His infectious smile, energy on the field and penchant for the big hit certainly won over his New York fans as well. And who could forget his brilliant catch in the 2016 Wild Card game? This may be Granderson’s last year as a player, but, with his charm, you have to think we’ll be seeing more of him around the game. He’s really well suited as an MLB Network or ESPN personality.

Cabrera, due to his versatility, may well find a new home to finish out the season, and along with several other ex-Mets he’s hoping he might have one more good one left in the tank. Relievers Addison Reed, Fernando Salas and Carlos Torres have all struggled this year either with injuries, effectiveness or both. But with so many bullpens in disarray, a new job is always a phone call away.

When it comes to relievers, the Mets have a lot of ex-players floating around, some better than others – Darren O’Day, Ollie Perez, Hansel Robles, Jon Gant, Joe Smith, Jerry Blevins, Chasen Bradford, Gabriel Ynoa, Tyler Clippard and probably a few more that I missed. Relievers are hard to predict, but there are some ex-Met everyday players still making hay, like Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, Jay Bruce, Wilmer Flores, and Neil Walker.  Catcher Travis d’Arnaud is bouncing like a dead cat in Tampa, while his former caddy, Kevin Plawecki, is hanging on as a backup in Cleveland.

Maybe I’m alone in this, but I watch for these names in the box scores. They may not be on the Mets anymore, but some of them – like Granderson and Flores – are hard not to continue rooting for, as long as they’re not playing against the Mets.

 

Will the eventual return of Chris Young become an issue?

Chris YoungAs it stands right now, the Mets have themselves a nice outfield that is producing in many different ways.

With free-agent acquisition Curtis Granderson in right, uber-defensive specialist Juan Lagares in center and the speedy Eric Young Jr. in left field, the Mets have a quick, athletic and dynamic outfield. However, Chris Young—the odd man out in this equation—was not signed in the offseason (for a one-year deal worth $7.25 million) to rot on the bench.

Young has reported to Las Vegas after playing in two games at extended spring training. He is eligible to come off the disabled list on April 18.

So what does Terry Collins do when Young is ready to return to the lineup in roughly a week?

Some of the attributes that make Granderson, Young Jr. and Lagares special is their speed, versatility and defensive ability. That is where Young can make a name for himself as well. Let’s not forget why the Mets signed him the first place.

Young has had his share of issues in the past. He has been marred by injuries and is not the greatest contact hitter. He has not hit over .240 since 2010. But, he does have some decent pop; he averaged nearly 20 HR’s home runs between 2007 and 2010. He also is an asset on the basepaths, having accumulated 122 stolen bases in nine seasons.

Each of the aforementioned starting outfielders brings a different niche to the table, though,  and each has a strong case for consistent playing time.

Let’s examine them one by one.

Curtis Granderson

For all his warts (K rate and paltry OBP), Granderson was signed for his ability to hit the long ball and stabilize the clubhouse. Considering he hit 202 home runs in the seven years prior to last year’s injury-shortened season and signed a lucrative four-year deal, he won’t get pushed out of the outfield rotation.

Eric Young Jr.

Young Jr., who was last year’s NL stolen base champ, has started to find his groove of late and is coming off his finest performance of the year in the Mets 6-4 win over the Braves on Thursday night, in which he went 3-5 with a triple, four runs and three stolen bases. If he can get on base at a consistent clip at the top of the order, the Mets will be better off for it. Young Jr. is a bonafide sparkplug and if he can maintain a reasonable OPB, he will be a much valuable asset.

Juan Lagares

The one who has benefited the most while Young has been sidelined is Lagares.

Lagares has once again taken like a fish to water in centerfield, showing off his great range and being one of the game’s most gifted defensive players. It has not been all about defense with Lagares either. He has been quite the revelation at the plate, sporting a very impressive .303/.351/.515 slash line (prior to Friday night’s game) in 33 at-bats. Maybe he won’t keep it up, but you have to keep riding with him, given for what he provides you out on the field.

So, despite him signing a nice deal in the offseason, Young may find himself on the outside looking in when he is eligible to come back.

This is certainly a good problem for Collins to have. To have four exciting, athletically gifted and defensive minded outfielders to move in and out of the lineup will only be beneficial for the Mets. Not to mention, Collins has to also work in Andrew Brown, especially against lefties.

If these players are all committed and on the same page, playing time amongst them should be the least of their problems. These things tend to fix themselves out in the long run.

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