What If Mets Don’t Sign Hairston?

Apparently, the signing of Matt Diaz has not affected the Yankees’ interest in Scott Hairston. Further, there are reportedly other teams in addition to the Yanks interested in the slugging Hairston. Though Hairston has stated his desire to return to the Mets, there remains a very real possibility his 2013 home team does not reside in Flushing. If Hairston signs elsewhere, who is going to be the Mets’ fourth outfielder?

Never mind that the Mets don’t have a starting three in place — that’s beside the point. Or is it?

With pitchers and catchers reporting to Port St. Lucie 55 days from now, let’s take a look at the Mets’ current “outfield situation.”

Mike Baxter – can play all three positions capably, probably best suited to the corners.

Collin Cowgill – basically, a righthanded-hitting version of Baxter, with a bit more speed.

Lucas Duda – either the next Adam Dunn or the next Adam Hyzdu. He’s a liability in either corner, and will need to hit more like Dunn to justify having him stand in the outfield.

Jordany Valdespin – if only ‘spin performed as well as he thinks he is, the Mets would have a superstar. I’ve seen his raw skills, but don’t see anything from his minor league stats to suggest he can hit enough to be something other than a second baseman or utilityman.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis – One of my favorite Mets of the past few years was Jeremy Reed. Captain Kirk reminds me quite a bit of Reed, except he strikes out three times as often. That’s unfortunate. Center field is the only place Nieuwenhuis makes sense, as his offense isn’t enough for a corner.

Matt Den Dekker – Den Dekker is essentially Nieuwenhuis, but might strike out even more often.

Corner outfielder Cesar Puello and Juan Lagares are on the Mets’ 40-man roster, but are likely too raw to compete for a big-league role — but hey, you never know.

It’s possible the Mets go with full platoon situation that looks like this:

LF – Duda / Valdespin
CF – Nieuwenhuis (or Den Dekker) / Cowgill
RF – Baxter / Cowgill

I know he’s fast, but not sure Cowgill is fast enough to handle both RF and CF simultaneously — but it could, as some of right field could be covered by short-fielder Daniel Murphy.

In all seriousness, take a look at that outfield — Duda, Valdespin, Nieuwenhuis, Cowgill, Baxter — that’s what it looks like right now, without Hairston. If Hairston comes back AND has another career year, that rotation looks a little better. If Hairston signs elsewhere, the best OFs left on the free-agent market are Delmon Young, Austin Kearns, Nyjer Morgan, Scott Podsednik, Endy Chavez, Luke Scott, Aubrey Huff, Juan Rivera, Carlos Lee, Don Kelly, Corey Patterson, Jason Michaels, Joe Mather, Adam Loewen, Willie Harris, Jack Cust, Shelley Duncan, Brett Carroll, Andrew Brown, Jai Miller, and Lou Montanez. There may be some other needles in the haystack of minor-league free agents I’m missing — if so, let me know in the comments. Among that group, I’m not seeing Morgan come in, because it makes more sense to put Nieuwenhuis and Den Dekker out there to see what they can do — and fall back on Cowgill and Baxter if both fail miserably. Sandy Alderson likes home runs so maybe Loewen gets another shot, and/or Luke Scott is brought in. Cust and Duncan have power, but both are similar to Duda defensively. Huff, Young, and Rivera would be decent fits due to their righthandedness and experience, but I’m not seeing any of the three signed by the Mets. Kearns keeps coming to my mind, and would seem to be the type of player who could fit.

What’s your thought? If Hairston signs elsewhere, what will the Mets do? Will they sign a free agent with MLB experience? Will they go with what they have currently? Is there a trade they can make, and if so, who is out there and what will it take to acquire him? Answer in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Petey December 29, 2012 at 5:28 pm
    Front office said that they were getting an outfielder and Cowgill was obtained. That’s our guy. There was also mention of a 5th starter and Laffey was signed. That’s our guy. Now there is talk of the Mets looking for a reliever… see the pattern. Looks like we are competing with Florida for last place. Thanks for not punting 2013 Sandy!
  2. Rev.Al December 29, 2012 at 5:30 pm
    Can the Mets make a play at Michael Bourn,passing up the draft pick,just to fill multi needs in C/F with s/b speed and a gold glove C/F lead-off hitter ,all in one? Could they be holding off the money for Hairston to make a cash pile for him? Man he sure would fit nicely into the Met lineup.
    • Joe Janish December 29, 2012 at 7:48 pm
      No, I don’t believe that a) the Mets can afford the kind of money Bourn is seeking; b) are not inclined to offer the number of years Bourn is seeking; and c) even if the Mets were able and willing to make the necessary commitment, signing Bourn means the Mets’ #11 overall pick in next June’s draft is erased — and giving up a first-round pick is contrary to their rebuilding project.
  3. mikem December 29, 2012 at 7:20 pm
    Mets need to sign Hairston, he had a good year on a bad team. Not sure what they are waiting for. He should come relatively cheap. Bad team needs to make some positive moves especially after trading their Cy winner.
    • Joe Janish December 29, 2012 at 7:50 pm
      I believe the Mets are waiting for Hairston’s demands to become “relatively cheap.” Based on various reports he’s looking for something in the neighborhood of 2 years / $10M, and that is outside what the Mets are willing to give him.
    • Izzy December 30, 2012 at 9:23 am
      signing Hairston a positive move? Hardly. just another reminder to Met fans that they threw away the Cy Young winner right after throwing away the batting leader and the team will suck more in 13 than it did in 12. They had their chance to make fans feel good. They spit in our faces over and over.
  4. NormE December 29, 2012 at 7:49 pm
    Bringing in Austin Kearns would seem to fit Alderson’s history.
    That would mean that the Mets would have a roster full of #4 outfielders—not a single #1,#2 or #3.
    A different approach to baseball!
    • Joe Janish December 29, 2012 at 7:56 pm
      Not all THAT different; the 2012 Mets had a roster full of #4 OFs (and #3 catchers).

      Even if the Mets re-sign Hairston, they still have all #4 OFs.

      Yes, this new and different approach will be detailed in “Moneyball 2: The Guru Returns”.

  5. Florian December 29, 2012 at 8:16 pm
    Maybe the Mets should trade Hairston against Porcello? The Tigers don’t really need him on the rotation anymore, but are still looking for an outfielder.
    • Izzy December 30, 2012 at 9:25 am
      How do you trade a guy you don’t own?
      • Florian December 30, 2012 at 10:48 am
        You don’t. Stupid me.
        • Joe Janish December 30, 2012 at 3:32 pm
          We all make mistakes, Florian.

          But, if Hairston WAS still under contract with the Mets, dealing him for Porcello would be a pretty good deal for both sides. Too bad the Mets don’t have a trading chip similar to Hairston.

  6. Quinn December 29, 2012 at 8:19 pm
    How would duda and spin platoon they are both lefties?
    • Herb G December 29, 2012 at 10:04 pm
      I noticed that too. Besides, I really don’t think Spin was made for the outfield. He looks so terribly awkward out there sometimes.

      Actually, I’ve been thinking that if Murphy was included in a trade for someone decent this off season, a platoon of Spin and Flores at 2B would be pretty interesting to see.

    • Joe Janish December 30, 2012 at 12:47 am
      Ha! I care so little for ‘spin I forgot he’s a LH hitter! Thanks for pointing that out.
  7. NormE December 29, 2012 at 9:30 pm
    Joe J., I noticed Carlos Lee on your list. He’s probably the only outfielder for whom you would bring Duda in as a defensive replacement. What a platoon that would be!
    • Joe Janish December 30, 2012 at 12:50 am
      I’m not so sure; Lee might actually be a micro hair better than Duda defensively. It would be similar to when Lonnie Smith would be the late-inning defensive replacement for Greg Luzinski.

      But Lee, at least, is an outstanding hitter. I think he’s one of the most underrated hitters of the last decade.

      • SiddFinch December 30, 2012 at 3:03 pm
        I agree about Lee being underrated. I’m surprised nobody is even looking at him as a DH option in the AL. He should definitely be on the Mets radar. I imagine that they could get him on a one-year incentive-laden deal. Even a Carlos Lee on the downside of his career is an upgrade over the current OF options. Hell, even a 54 yr. old Rickey Henderson would be an improvement over what’s out there now.
        • Joe Janish December 30, 2012 at 3:35 pm
          No joke — Rickey might be a viable option, if he’s invited to camp.

          As for Lee, I think teams assume he’s more interested in his cattle ranches than playing baseball. Or, maybe he’s more interested in tending to his ranches than negotiating for a new contract. My guess is the Rays, Astros, or Rangers quietly sign him right before spring training opens.

  8. Dan B December 29, 2012 at 9:34 pm
    How about plan B? Go for the cheapest outfield for the next two years knowing you won’t be sniffing. 500, let alone the playoffs. Take the savings and pay down debt. After refinancing your debt in 2014, start investing modestly in your team starting with 2015. Pray you haven’t completely lost your fanbase. Oh, and trade DWright before he starts making big money. I am like an addict who can’t quit rooting for this team despite everything.
    • Joe Janish December 30, 2012 at 12:54 am
      I like plan C: sell the team to an ownership group that can fund an MLB team and is competent enough to leverage the extraordinary benefits of owning a Major League sports franchise AND TV network in NYC.
      • Dan December 30, 2012 at 8:39 am
        It could happen, but only if the negative cash flow continues after Selig retires, and his replacement isn’t a Wipon pawn.
      • Izzy December 30, 2012 at 9:27 am
        Plan C would rejuvenate the Met fan base, even more than the firing of Isiah did for Knick fans.
        • John D. December 30, 2012 at 5:09 pm
          I think plan C is eventually going to happen. If attendance keeps trending down, it will probably fall below 2M this year and I don’t believe the Wilpons have enough money to keep the team afloat even at the reduced payroll. With reduced attendance, they may have trouble making the stadium bond payments and their lenders have probably cut them off. I woiuld not surprised if this was the last year of their ownership.
        • Joe Janish December 30, 2012 at 5:46 pm
          Attendance trending down may have been put on artificial life support thanks to Bud Selig’s gracious move of giving Citi Field the 2013 All-Star Game. It might be just enough motivation to force fans to be season ticket packages.
        • Dan B December 31, 2012 at 9:51 am
          This just in, the Met’s bond rating for the stadium just got lowered due to revenue concerns. This won’t have a direct effect on the Mets since that money has been borrowed already. However it reflects the financial community’s falling opinion of the Met’s finances. It also means it may cost the Wilpons more to refinance their two big loans.
        • Dan December 31, 2012 at 11:22 am
          That is good news. I really hope they go under before Selig leaves.
      • F. Dworak December 31, 2012 at 11:24 am
        That’s the best Mets fans can hope for. In the meantime, let’s hope Kirk Niuwenhuis strikes out less and hits 15 HRs. He is the best OF prospect the Mets have.
  9. Herb G December 29, 2012 at 9:54 pm
    When push comes to shove, I believe Alderson will sign Hairston. His patience will eventually be rewarded. If he doesn’t, however, the only decent RH option I see is Juan Rivera, a distant second choice. Frankly, I’d rather see Nyjer Morgan get a minor league contract with an invite to ST. Morgan has the speed that Nieuwenhuis lacks, and if he comes in with the attitude he displayed in 2011 he could win the CF job and hit leadoff. As the off season winds down, I could even see Sandy bringing in both Scotty and Nyjer, but he should sign at least one free agent outfielder.

    That said, I think he should also bring in a good young outfielder in trade. The most interesting options I see out there are Emilio Bonifacio and Eric Young Jr. Both are switch hitters with speed to burn, natural leadoff guys, with good gloves. Since Alderson didn’t expand the Dickey trade to include Boni, he probably isn’t that interested in him. But there was talk last off season, and again during the Summer, that the Mets were interested in Young Jr.

    After 3 mediocre seasons with Colorado, where it seemed he couldn’t hit a lick away from the friendly, high altitude confines of Coor’s Field, Young had a breakout season last year. Suddenly he was hitting everywhere and everyone. Who knew? Was the breakout the real deal? If so, Young could be a find. It might not take too much to get him. We would probably have to give up Familia or Mejia, but a shrewd Alderson might just get away with parting with less, Gorski or McHugh plus Aderlin or Lagares, say.

  10. DaveSchneck December 29, 2012 at 10:49 pm
    How Hairston plays out will not make or break the offseason, because, as you state, he is a 4th outfielder. I am not buying that Cowgill is the OF bat and Laffey is the 5th starter. These are depth acquisitions. I am no Alderson lover, but despite the blog hate, this dude understands how to build a winner and how to navigate markets. Now, school is out and I am not drinking any koolaid just yet. If he fails to deliver a MLB-prover 10-12 game starter, a legit backend bullpen arm, a legit leadoff hitter, and a RH OF bat, he should be lambasted, and I will be the first to unload on him. But, 55 days is a long time, no matter how pathetic the unsigned list of players appears.
    • Joe Janish December 30, 2012 at 12:58 am
      Dave, I’m curious: what evidence is there that Alderson knows how to build a winner? The last playoff team he GM’ed was the steroid-enhanced, high-payroll A’s of the late 1980s. Things have changed a bit since then.
      • DaveSchneck December 30, 2012 at 10:26 am
        The evidence is that Sandy was GM of a WS champion. That’s one more than Daniels, Friedman, and many other SABR wiz kids. The As were juiced, no doubt, just like the other 30 teams in the league were. Things really haven’t changed since the 1800s. Players are still juiced. The NL MVP in 2011 was juiced. Pitching still wins. A strong player development system still wins. Players still cheat.. Teams in larger markets still have a financial advantage if they spend wisely. Alderson knows this, as do the other 30 GMs. We, me included, just don’t like the pace, which is due to weak ownership finances.
        • argonbunnies December 30, 2012 at 4:28 pm
          I’d say the other 25 GMs. There are still a couple of morons circulating (though they seem to get fired faster now — hello Vernon Wells, goodbye Tony Reagins!).

          Part of the key now, I think, is being the first one to take advantage of a moron when an opportunity arises. Like, when the Mets gave away Kazmir, any team would have loved to have him, but the Rays just got there first. When the Twins gave away Wilson Ramos, the Nats got there first. I’d love to see Sandy pull a move like that, but so far he’s only been on the wrong side (with Pagan).

          The hauls for Beltran and Dickey were good, but they were also exploiting genuine leverage, as opposed to just being smart.

        • Joe Janish December 30, 2012 at 5:49 pm
          Thanks Dave, you’ve inspired me to produce a lengthy post on the Sandy Alderson Myth. It should be complete at some point this week.
        • DaveSchneck December 30, 2012 at 9:46 pm
          I look forward to that, as I do all your posts, so thank you.
        • Joe December 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm
          Like you need incentive to bash Alderson.
    • Joe Janish December 30, 2012 at 1:04 am
      I like Bonifacio, but not for 3-4 prospects; maybe one or two.

      Hairston a “must sign”? Or else the Mets may lose 103 games instead of 99?

      I think it’s a gamble to expect Hairston to repeat his career year – unless he’s on PEDs. It’s highly unusual to be a 4th or 5th OF / utilityman for 10 years and suddenly hit 20 HR as a 32-year-old. Andres Torres had a career year at a similar age, and was unable to repeat it.

  11. Bill Metsiac December 30, 2012 at 12:38 am
    Hairston is a must-sign, IMO. His price (+/- $5 mil per for 2 years) is reasonable, he’s a capable fielder, a plus in the clubhouse, and 20 HR at Citi in a little over half a season’s worth of AB is way above what we can expect from anyone else.

    The guy I’d go after in addition to Hairston is the new Toronto CFer, Bonifacio. Perfect player for us–SHer, solid on defense, gets on base, steals bases, low salary.I’d take a bunch of our non-Wheeler/Harvey kids (Duda, Spin, Kirk, McHugh, Hefner, Den Dekker, Gorski, et al) and tell the Jays to pick any 3 or 4.

    Reasonable? Too much? Not enough?

  12. Adrian from Germany December 30, 2012 at 10:43 am
    Although Collin Cowgill certainly is an improvement over Jayson Bay (who woudn’t be?) he’s not more than a platoon guy. Hairston really seems to be a good fit but I just don’t see him repeat what he did last year. Herb G mentioned Eric Young from Colorado could be a good fit. Unlike Hairston, I totally could see that happening.

    Duda probably has the potential to hit 5th (the highest any Mets outfielder should hit) and as long as the Mets don’t get to use a DH, we’re just gonna have to swallow the fact that he’s not fast, has no arm and sometimes misjudges fly balls.

    I also think Kirk can cut down on his SO’s as time goes on (at least a bit) and be a Jeff Francoeur type of offensive Player . He just needs to play regularly, and stay healthy.

    • argonbunnies December 30, 2012 at 4:41 pm
      Duda’s D is weird. He’s slow, but there are other corner OFs who are slower and not considered liabilities. His arm strength is fantastic. His reads are poor, and the amount of time it takes him to line himself up for a ball to field it, transfer it, shift his weight, and throw is approximately forever.

      So, all the holes in his game could theoretically be improved with coaching and practice. But he’s about to turn 27. So maybe not.

      Too bad the Mets wasted 167 games of his OF development at 1B in 2008-2009 (after signing Davis).

  13. argonbunnies December 30, 2012 at 4:32 pm
    Hairston, Rivera, Kearns… I don’t really care, I’m happy to take whichever upgrade comes cheapest. If that’s Hairston, bonus, for being a good guy and easy to root for. But if it’s someone else, whatever.

    Not getting any upgrade, though — that’d be pretty awful.

  14. MCPOmetslifer December 31, 2012 at 1:17 am
    First, they should make a trade with the A’s for Coco Crisp. This will solve the Mets centerfield and leadoff problems along adding to the lack of team speed.
    Then, they should sign Hairston to a 2 year deal. This way they will have both Crisp and Hairston on their roster while the other’s can mature to be major league ready for the near future as everyday players. This would give the Mets an outfield of:
    LF- Duda/Hairston
    CF- Crisp
    RF- Baxter/Cowgill
    This also allows Capt Kirk to fill in accordingly depending on team needs, Duda slumps, bat off the bench and/or injuries.
    Acquiring Crisp and Hairston should cost the Mets around $11M for next year.
    • Joe Janish December 31, 2012 at 1:49 am
      Makes sense. Who do the Mets send to Oakland in return for Crisp? Bobby Parnell? Dan Murphy? Minor leaguers? I’m not up on the A’s and therefore don’t know what they might be seeking.
    • Quinn December 31, 2012 at 7:27 pm
      Do the mets need Cocoa Crisp.. isnt he certifiably insane?
      • Joe Janish January 1, 2013 at 2:13 pm
        No, he’s not. But I believe he’s a cereal killer.
  15. MCPOmetslifer December 31, 2012 at 2:08 am
    Knowing Billy Beane he probably will have his sights set on some of the Mets lower level young pitchers. He knows that Crisp will not get him one of the Met’s top studs in return but he also knows that out of the Mets 10 ten prospects, 7 of them are pitchers! So he might possibly trade for a single A and double A prospect. This will eliminate $7M off of his books for 2013 since he just added $9M for Chris Young along with restocking his farm system with young cheap arms for years to come.
  16. MCPOmetslifer January 1, 2013 at 3:44 am
    The Mets do in fact need a fast centerfielder that can cover a lot of ground during their home games along with having a very good glove in support of all their young pitchers. Great defense makes up for a lot of mistakes by a young pitching staff. Remember the Atlanta Braves pitching staff? Andruw Jones covered up for a lot of their mistakes and helped turn that staff into one of the greatest pitching staff’s of all time. I have not heard any negativety concernng Crisp mental make-up but I do know that Sandy is very interested in him. BTW, Crisp is also a switch hitter that is capable of swiping 40 bags! If the Met’s can pull of the trade for Crisp along with signing Hairston their lineup will be able to score some runs in support of their young staff. This will also buy them some time waiting for the salaries of Santana and Bay to come off the books so that they will be able to dip into the Free Agent pool next year. The line-up would look something like this.

    CF- Crisp, (switch hitter)
    2nd – Murphy, (Left)
    3rd – Wright, (Right)
    1st – Davis, (Left)
    LF – Haiston/Duda, (Right and Left)
    C- Buck/d’Arnoud, (both Right)
    RF- Cowgell/Baxter, (Right and Left)
    SS- Tejada, (Right)

    This linup will allow Murphy to tee off on massive amounts of fast balls in the 2nd hole that he will see because of Crisp’s speed on the basepaths. Plus Murphy hit 40 doubles last year. With Crisp’s speed that’s 40 additional runs right there that the Mets did not have last year….
    But there are 2 holes in the lineup that still need to be addressed. 1- Ike Davis does not hit Lefties well at all…. This is a problem since the Mets will face many quality lefties i.e., Gio Gonzalez, Cliff Lee, Cole Hammels, Clayton Kershaw etc. and 2- We still do not know how d’Arnoud will handle major league pitching yet?

    • Joe Janish January 1, 2013 at 2:20 pm
      I’ve always been a fan of Crisp, and agree with your sentiments.

      However, what will it take to get him from Oakland? Will it be worth it, considering his advancing age (he just turned 33)?

      Further, though he has speed, his OBP has never been very good — it was only .325 last year. Would the Mets use him in a leadoff role with such a low OBP? Remember this is the same Mets staff that felt Jose Reyes didn’t get on base enough to be a leadoff hitter. Further, would the Mets use Crisp’s speed? Their SABR-minded philosophy seems to eschew the stolen base as too risky.

      Again, I agree with you and your well-made points. But I don’t know that the Mets agree.

  17. MCPOmetslifer January 1, 2013 at 3:17 pm
    Since Crisp is 33 and the A’s are loaded in their outfield for next year I believe Sandy can get him with a very good Single “A” or a Double “A” pitching prospect.
    Sandy will have to figure out which one to send over. Billy Beane is always looking for young cheap arms that he can control for several years, this is something that was taught to him by Sandy himself.
    Crisp has only a 1 year contract for 2013 for $7M with a 2014 option and a $1M buyout. This makes him attractive for Sandy’s plan for 2013. Mind you, Crisp has also been part of a Boston Red Sox Championship team along with helping the over achieving A’s win their division last year. This is also an important element for Sandy as well. If Sandy can pull off this trade he will be hoping that some of Crisp’s winning experience rubs off on some of the younger less experienced ball players on the Mets squad.
    I agree with your assessment that Crisp had only a .325 OB last year but that is better than anyboby that the Mets are thinking about putting in the lead off spot that is on their current roster right now. I think that Sandy believe’s that Dave Hudgens will be able to work with Crisp to try and help him go deeper into the counts like he did with everyone else on the Mets team last year.
    I also beleive the future centerfielder for the Mets will be Brandon Nimmo, but he probably will not arrive to the big club until 2015! Crips allows Sandy a stop gap for a year or two until Nimmo arrives. I do agree with your assessment of the SABR-minded Mets front office and your points are also well taken as to why the Mets might not make the trade. I guess that is why my phone is not ringing and that they are not asking me for my advice..
    • Joe Janish January 1, 2013 at 8:18 pm
      I tend to think it will take more to land Crisp, mainly because competent center fielders who have some kind of offensive skill are so hard to come by. We’ll see — maybe Alderson can put something together.

      Don’t feel bad — the Mets aren’t calling me for advice, either!