As we all know, Carlos Beltran has underwent knee surgery and is expected to be out for 12 weeks. No one is sure if “12 weeks” refers to the time before he can walk, run, or play ball. No one has made clear that it is “at least 12 weeks” or “a minimum of 12 weeks”. The recent history of communications from the Mets in regard to player injuries, though, tells us that the “12 weeks” means little or nothing.
That said, we’ll pretend that Carlos Beltran will NOT be in uniform, in centerfield, in April, and possibly not until May (which, in Metspeak, means, he most likely will be back in the lineup sometime in August).
Who will play centerfield for the Mets while we wait for Beltran’s return? Here are some of the possibilities.
The best free-agent centerfielder still available on the open market. He has no desire to play in NYC, and is coming off an injury-riddled season in which he hit .231.
The second-best free-agent centerfielder still available. Hits from both sides of the plate, has good speed, and can play every position on the diamond except catcher. He hit .217 last year and turned 32 a few days ago. In his prime years (27-29) he was a semi-regular super utlityman who hit in the .260s with no power.
Endy is coming off major knee surgery that ended his 2009 season. He turns 32 in a few weeks. His age and his surgery likely will affect his once excellent range. Neither issue should affect the fact he has no power, no plate discipline, and is a streak hitter.
There was a time that Damon was adequate in centerfield. That time has long past. Comically enough, there have been some pundits who suggest signing Damon for left field and shifting Jason Bay to center — many of the same pundits who previously insisted that Jason Bay’s defensive skills in left field would nullify his offensive production and ultimately doom the Mets.
Cory Sullivan / Jeremy Reed
Either of these choices would provide stellar defense, solid fundamentals, hustle, and good baserunning but only limited offensive production. The cost would be very affordable — likely under $1M.
This name is being bandied about more than Sullivan/Reed and I don’t understand why — Reed Johnson is essentially the righthanded, more expensive version of those two. I guess it’s a matter of people preferring change for the sake of change.
Is he healthy? Can he play every day? Does he want to play in NYC? If the answer is “yes” to all three it’s a no-brainer. But we don’t know the answers.
Winn has been coveted by the Mets for several years, as his name comes up in rumors every July. He hasn’t been an everyday centerfielder since 2004 because his range is limited. He might be an OK stopgap, providing solid if unspectacular all-around performance. Certainly he is a well-rounded, fundamentally sound ballplayer with extensive experience and has a good rep off the field / in the clubhouse.
Jerry Hairston, Jr.
This name has been suggested by various sources recently. Why, I have no idea. Hairston is essentially an older, more versatile, but otherwise less-talented version of Reed Johnson. His main value is the ability to stand in several different positions on the diamond, but, at none is he particularly stellar — centerfield included. In any case, it appears he’s about to sign with the Padres.
The price tag should be cheap, and if he’s healthy, he might be an OK option — if he’ll sign an MLB-minimum contract. The Crashtest Dummy last played CF regularly in 2006, and no one knows for sure if he’s healthy enough to walk out to center, much less play it.
Gerald “Ice” Williams
Gary Matthews, Jr.
The Angels are dying to rid themselves of Matthews and his contract — and will probably pay some or all of his salary to make him go away. He hasn’t performed anywhere close to his “enhanced” career year with the Rangers in 2006, and is now 35 years old.
The rumor mill was rife with Spilborghs’ name earlier in the winter, and he remains an extra outfielder on the Rockies’ depth chart. The Beaneheads love him for his OBP, and he can cover centerfield adequately enough to be a worthwhile stopgap. But at what cost, and is he any better than Angel Pagan?
The most likely and most sensible solution is Angel Pagan. He has the physical (if not mental) skills to handle center field more than adequately, and showed in 2009 that he can be an offensive force in spurts.
Do we really want to watch him be overmatched in MLB when he should be further developing his skills, confidence, and ability to stay on the field in the minors?
Jason Bay / Jeff Francoeur
Even if either of these players was capable of handling centerfield for more than a week, it would still create a hole in one of the corners. Not plausible.
I think we know the way the Mets will go — they’ll plug in Angel Pagan and hope for the best. And looking at the alternatives, it’s not a bad plan. Though, I’d prefer they also back him up with a solid, cheap defender such as Jeremy Reed or Cory Sullivan, AND have a “Plan B” in place — Randy Winn would appear to be the most logical choice in terms of availability and cost. Winn can fill in as a late-inning defender in center and left, and be a veteran bat off the bench — he can just as easily play every day, and/or split time in a platoon situation. Maybe if Ankiel were more interested in playing in New York I’d think differently, but that plus his history suggests he isn’t “built” to play in a big market.
What do you think?