The Mets outfield hasn’t had a real threat in it since Sandy Alderson dealt away Carlos Beltran a few seasons back. Jason Bay was just another in the list of big named free agent signings that didn’t work out and guys like Lucas Duda were put out there though they weren’t truly outfielders. In 2013, Alderson made a trade for Eric Young Jr., a player the Mets had tried to acquire for several seasons. In Young, the Mets got someone who could hit leadoff and brought speed to their lineup, both things they haven’t had since Jose Reyes left as a free agent a couple of seasons ago. Though Young hit just .251 in his 91 games as a Met, he stole 38 bases and his 46 total stolen bases for the year were most in the National League and trailed just Jacoby Ellsbury for the league. The Mets tried out so of their prospects, Matt Den Dekker got a look after injuries slowed him at the start of the season and Juan Lagares became the defensive anchor of the outfield as his defense in centerfield rivaled that of the best fielders in the league. But as the team looks forward to 2014, the Mets are looking for “impact bats” and the outfield is a good place to look. Lagares would be great to have in centerfield if you’re corner outfielders are giving you power. Same with Eric Young Jr., a great guy to be you’re fourth outfielder and bring speed off the bench, but not a guy to truly be you’re everyday leadoff hitter for a contending team. So where options does Sandy Alderson have for the Mets outfield this offseason?
Let’s first point out the trade options that have been talked about seemingly all year. The Dodgers with the emergence of Yasiel Puig have an abundance of outfielders and could look to move Andre Ethier or even the often injured Matt Kemp. The watch of the Marlins trading of Giancarlo Stanton started once the Marlins made their big trade with the Blue Jays last offseason. Lastly there is the heavy rumor of the Rockies considering trading away Carlos Gonzales. For Alderson, these are viable but difficult options. With Stanton and Cargo, they’re exactly the type of “impact bat” he’s seeking, but the price tag could be too much for him to give up. With the Dodgers, Ethier hasn’t turned into the batter he appeared to be before he got the big contract he has now so I’m not sure if he would be a top priority for Alderson and Kemp’s injury history is the only thing that would make him a trade option to begin with. Would Alderson want to deal for a high risk player when the price would seemingly appear to be more than its worth?
There’s also been a rumor of the Blue Jays mulling the idea of trading outfielder Jose Bautista but he also has injury concerns and I don’t believe if the Blue Jays were serious about moving Bautista they’d go back to the Mets after doing a major prospect deal last year for RA Dickey. So that leaves the free agent bin for Alderson. The big name is Jacoby Ellsbury, but he’s represented by Scott Boras and he’s going to get a huge deal, probably somewhere in the $160 million neighborhood and Alderson isn’t going to go there. Shin-Soo Choo seemed to be the ideal fit for Alderson, he’s a great leadoff hitter with power and gets on base a ton. Plus he was supposed to fit the salary frame Alderson has in mind. But, impending free agent Hunter Pence went and signed a $90 million deal with the Giants before the season ended which would seem to mean that now Choo will garner a contract over $100 million and that’s not something I think Alderson is comfortable doing. What Alderson needs to do is look for guys with upside, guys who aren’t going to cost $20 million a year but you can get away with two-three year deals in the $10-$12 million range if not less.
Watching the postseason, the obvious name that jumps out for people is former Met Carlos Beltran. Now everyone can say that the water is under the bridge when it comes to the turmoil that surrounded Beltran’s final year with the Mets but that’s a sour taste I don’t think that’s left Beltran’s mouth. Beltran won’t come out and say he wouldn’t return to the Mets but with plenty of options sure to be available, I doubt Alderson is going to overpay to get him to consider a return. Nelson Cruz would seem to be one option that would fit for Alderson. He’s coming off the suspension in connection with the Biogenesis scandal, but he can hit for power and though his defense isn’t great he’s better than what the Mets have put out there before. Cruz seems to be done in Texas and the suspension should lower his value a bit and make him a good fit for the Mets.
Another interesting name is Curtis Granderson. This past season was a lost year for Granderson as he just couldn’t get healthy. But he was a big bat in the Yankees lineup the past few seasons and while playing at Yankee Stadium has inflated his power numbers, he still has pop in his bat and is a decent outfielder. Have to wonder if the idea of playing a corner outfielder position on a a deal in that Mets range of two-three year for $10-$12 million would appeal to Grandy.
Back in 2009 for Seattle, Franklin Gutierrez hit 18 home runs and drove in 70 runs while hitting .283. Since then, Gutierrez hasn’t hit for more than a dozen home runs and 60 rbis in a season while bouncing back and forth between Seattle and the minor leagues. I’m not saying that Gutierrez is someone to be counted on for 2014, but he wouldn’t cost much and a change of scenery could allow Alderson to catch lightning in a bottle and grab out the ability that Gutierrez had once shown. Alderson has shown the ability to find that lightning in a bottle, just look at this past season with Marlon Byrd.
The last option for Alderson would be Corey Hart. Hart missed all of the 2013 season with injury but the year before he hit 30 home runs and drove in 83 runs for Milwaukee. Hart has shown that when healthy, he can be a consistent 20 home run guy. Plus he has the ability to play both the outfield and first base which are both positions of need for the Mets. The lost year has to have a bit of a cloud of doubt around Hart as he enters free agency. The Mets medical team have had their own issues over the past several years but other teams should show you whether the league thinks he’s healthy or not. Plus, much like Granderson, he shouldn’t need a ton of years or money to lock up.
The problem with the Mets when they’ve been players in the free agent game is they’ve worried too much about what the name will mean to the back page than what it will mean to the team on the field. While most of these guys are well known and would garner media attention, they aren’t the giant splash that seemingly is what most people expect when it comes to free agency in New York. For the Mets, that’s not a bad thing, its time to show the fans that the front office is focused on the team and winning games, not back pages.