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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 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?