After a winter in which they failed (or succeeded, depending on your perspective) to hand out a single Major League contract to an available free agent, the New York Mets appear prepared to head into the 2013 season with a number of remaining question marks on their roster. One particular place that seems to stand out is the hole in the outfield, especially when you look around the division and see the outfield improvements that New York’s division rivals have made (Washington added Denard Span, Philadelphia added Ben Revere, and Atlanta added B.J. Upton and Justin Upton). New York was long interested in Michael Bourn before the center fielder signed with the Cleveland Indians, but thanks to the threat of losing the #11 pick in next June’s Draft they missed out on a chance to change the perception of such a big part of their roster.
New York heads into the season with a projected outfield of Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Mike Baxter with Collin Cowgill and Jordany Valdespin worked into the mix. No matter which way you view it, it’s an uninspiring group but with Spring Training upon us there are few options available. Principal owner Fred Wilpon made it known when the team first arrived in Port St. Lucie that he’d been able to address the family’s financial matters, putting the organization back in a position where significant investments can be made with regards to the team’s roster. With an absence of a strong outfield prospect in the team’s minor leagues, finding suitable help for the outfield may have come from an outside acquisition.
Bill Madden of the New York Daily News examined the subject over the weekend, essentially suggesting that the Mets may be best served waiting until next winter before they make a significant commitment to an outfielder given all of the options that may be available on the open market. Madden brings up nine players who should reach free agency at the end of the 2013 season, but finds fault in all of them for one reason of another. Jacoby Ellsbury and Corey Hart are injury prone. Curtis Granderson will strike out too frequently, since his swing has been changed by Yankee Stadium too much. Michael Morse isn’t athletic enough. Carlos Gomez and Jeff Francoeur have too many makeup concerns. Madden never suggests a player that the team should potentially pursue and effectively, doesn’t suggest a solution to the team’s perceived need in the outfield.
What remains on the current free agent market (Bobby Abreu, Johnny Damon, Grady Sizemore) likely won’t appeal to the Mets. Little remains of the minor league free agent crop. Scanning the list of players who might become available, considering they are out of options, uncovers just as few options (Xavier Paul, Sam Fuld, Casper Wells) and none that would assuredly be an upgrade over what the team already has in camp.
New York appears confident in the group projected to man their outfield, or at least they are content heading into the season with the group. The team has a number of options at this point, all of which present little risk in the short term. They can let the group play and hope that someone proves to be a positive boost in the outfield. Duda and Valdespin offer some power potential. Baxter’s made some highlight reel catches. Nieuwenhuis might prove to be a a great defensive asset in center field. The team can also wait things out. Maybe someone becomes available later in Spring Training. Maybe at the July trade deadline.
There will be options for the Mets in the months ahead for them to address their outfield makeup. The team will, apparently, have the financial freedom to make a move when they need to.