The 32-year-old Harris has been a thorn in the side of Mets fans for his dramatic outfield catches in late innings against the Mets over the past few years. Otherwise, though, there isn’t much to say about Harris, who hit .183 for the Nationals last year and is a career .239 hitter. He’s an average to slightly above-average corner outfielder, and average defensively in center. He can also play second base adequately, and fill in at short and third in a pinch. Once a speedster, he’s still faster than average and won’t make many mistakes on the basepaths.
It’s good to have him around for depth, particularly considering the injury histories of Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan, but I’m not sure Harris is any better overall than Jason Pridie. I suspect Harris’ MLB experience is valued by the Mets braintrust, as well as his ability to play second base. Similar to Harris is Russ Adams, who also hits from the left side but is primarily a middle infielder who can play some outfield when needed (whereas Harris is primarily an outfielder who can play some infield when needed).
I know this is strictly a depth acquisition, but if the Mets are going to be insistent upon having an experienced MLBer competing for the fourth outfielder spot, I’d be more excited about a return to New York by Lastings Milledge or Ryan Church, or the signing of Andruw Jones. Though, I’m sure none of those three make sense for one reason or another — even if all three can play centerfield as well or better than Harris and almost certainly will provide more offense. Most likely, it’s a money thing, in which case, I wonder if Delwyn Young is on the Mets radar? Young is a 28-year-old switch-hitter who, like Willie Harris, is an outfielder who can also play second base adequately. Young doesn’t have much (if any) experience in center field, but is pretty much the same player as Harris — except four years younger.
If nothing else, Harris has always been a fan favorite in his previous big league stops. You can read a very nice interview with him on MLBlogs. Harris may not be a tremendous performer, but he’s hard not to like. Nothing wrong with this signing, but nothing exciting about it, either.