Which Outfielder Will Be the Odd Man Out?

Within the next 2-3 weeks, the Mets should be getting 3 key injured players back.  SS Ruben Tejada, C Josh Thole, and OF Jason Bay are all beginning to play rehab games this week.  So which players on the current major league roster will they replace?

In the case of Thole, the answer is simple – Either Mike “Grand Slam” Nickeas or Rob “Snap Throw to First” Johnson (whoever is sucking the most when the time comes) will be replaced.

Has Kirk done enough to stay on the big club?

When Tejada comes back, he would have replaced Vinny Rottino.  However, the injury to Justin Turner muddies the picture a bit.

Omar Quintanilla is likely to replace Turner on the roster.  If Tejada then replaces Quintanilla, the Mets will only have one player to backup second base, shortstop, and third base – Ronny Cedeno.  That’s assuming Cedeno’s minor quad strain doesn’t turn into a major pain in the posterior.  If the Mets decide they need 2 backup infielders, then Quintanilla would stay, and Rottino would be sent down after all.

For the sake of this post, let’s assume the latter will be the scenario.

With that in mind, the decision of whom to drop when Bay returns becomes complicated.  It’s doubtful the Mets will carry 6 outfielders, so someone is going to have to go.  Here are the candidates for replacement:

Mike Baxter

To say Mike Baxter has been valuable as a pinch hitter is a wild understatement.  As a sub, Baxter is hitting .429/.536/.667 in 28 plate appearances.  That’s a 1.202 OPS for those of you keeping score at home.  All of that success as a pinch hitter has earned him increased appearances in the starting lineup.  In 38 PAs as a starter, he’s batting .297/.316/.486.

His negatives are hard to find, but he does have a -0.2 dWAR (see: Collision with Kirk Nieuwenhuis), and he has no home runs on an already power-challenged team.

But he’s been too valuable off the bench to send down now, and will likely stick with the team.

Scott Hairston

His average (.256) and OBP (.302) aren’t all that impressive, but his slugging percentage (.513) will do just fine, thank you.  He provides home run pop of the bench, and is even tied for the team lead with 5 HRs.

He’s not a liability in the field, either.  He’s played each outfield position to the tune of a 0.2 dWAR.

The Mets have a dearth of right-handed bats on this team, and even with the return of Jason Bay, Hairston will stick around.

Lucas Duda

The Mets’ starting right fielder hasn’t had a great season, but he hasn’t had a bad one either.  He’s been trucking along at .250/.339/.375.  He hasn’t been in any prolonged slumps, nor has he gone on any prolonged hot streaks.  He hasn’t provided the kind of power the Mets hoped, but he still co-leads the team with 5 dingers.

Fielding has been an adventure, as we knew it would, but he hasn’t exactly been Daniel Murphy or Todd Hundley out there either (-1.1 dWAR).

The Mets need his power potential in this lineup, especially with Ike Davis struggling as mightily as he has.  And there’s still a chance that the 26 year-old Duda can adjust to major league pitching and go on a tear.

So, the candidates for replacement really come down to 2 players.

Andres Torres

Torres missed most of April when he re-injured his calf muscle on Opening Day.  It was an injury he had suffered in Spring Training.

When he returned on April 30, he got on base, hit, and provided solid defense in center field.  As of May 12, he was batting .310/.442/.452.  Then he went into a 1 for 33 swoon that caused his batting average dip below .200.  He lost his everyday job, and began to platoon with Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

In recent days, he has picked it back up, and despite his .205 batting average, he has a respectable .347 OBP.  He also continues to play a reliable and smart center field.

I believe he has minor league options (if I understand how options work), and despite his recent signs of life, he could be a candidate to be sent to Buffalo.  But I believe the Mets like his veteran presence, and the fact that he is a stabilizing force in the outfield.  The fact that he’s a switch-hitter in a sea of left-handed bats doesn’t hurt either.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis

Kirk got off to a rip-roaring start, then dropped off a bit when the league adjusted to him.  To his credit, he’s adjusted back, and has maintained a solid .290/.360/.387 line.  He hasn’t hit for much power, but he has a high line-drive percentage when he puts the ball in play.  In addition, he’s shown the ability to hit to all fields.

On defense, he covers a ton of real estate, especially in center field.

On the down side, he leads the team with 53 strikeouts, and his .422 BABIP is probably unsustainable.  On top of that, when Bay comes back, Kirk’s playing time will be reduced.

The current front office has shown a desire to get young players plenty of playing time, whether at the major league level or in the minors.  This is the main reason I think Nieuwenhuis will be the odd man out in the outfield.

Wild Card: Ike Davis

Although the Mets have said Davis will not be demoted, the option can’t be off the table completely.  If he continues to look lost at the plate, the Mets may have to reconsider their position once Bay returns.  If Davis is sent down, then Duda can move to first base.

What do you think the Mets should/will do when Jason Bay comes off the DL?

Paul is a freelance writer, blogger, and broadcast technology professional residing in Denver. A New Jersey native, he is a long-suffering Mets fan, a recently-happy Giants fan, and bewildered Islanders fan. He's also a fair-weather Avalanche and Rockies supporter. In his spare time, he enjoys the three Gs: Golf, Guitars, and Games.
  1. Mustapha Gbassa May 29, 2012 at 5:14 pm
    I would send Ike Davis down he’s horrible like wtf
  2. SiddFinch May 29, 2012 at 5:32 pm
    Davis is sent down and Duda moves to !B.
  3. Joe May 29, 2012 at 8:51 pm
    Kirk Nieuwenhuis is nice but until Bay is gone, yeah, I think he would be the one. I don’t think they want to make the IF weaker and probably won’t change their position on Davis.

    I think KN playing regularly makes sense and though I rather him here then Bay (or even Torres, probably), I think that is how they would go.

  4. mic May 30, 2012 at 2:43 am

    Kirk’s cooling off had more to do with inconsistent PT. Kirk needs to be up as HE is the future in CF. Sending him down does him and the Mets no good.

    Duda: is not a long term solution either. in fact I think Baxter should get more reps in RF.

    As for Baxter: Torres is effectively replaced by Baxter.

    Ike just needs to hit. Sending him down does nothing either. He needs a shrink, time in the cage and some confidence.

    • Joe May 30, 2012 at 11:33 am
      That “Necessary Roughness” woman seems to do a good job as a shrink to the stars. Nice on the eyes too.
  5. Steven May 30, 2012 at 12:10 pm
    My gut is that this problem will solve itself by some combination of Bay return being delayed and the inevitable other injury. I have been surprised how long it has taken Duda to get into a groove. It is amazing that the Mets are six games over .500 with only limited power from their top three projected power hitters. The starting pitching has really carried the team thus far. If Duda and Ike start to hit and the starting pitching holds up this team could be ten games over .500 by the All star break.