The Fourth Outfielder
I keep reading in various places that the Mets have earmarked a portion of their meager winter budget for a fourth outfielder. If this is true, why?
It’s pretty much been established that the 2011 season will not be one seeing the Mets fighting for a playoff spot. Call it “rebuliding”, “assessing and evaluating”, “reconstructing”, or whatever you wish — the bottom line is that the team is not making a conscious effort for the short-term, and is only in the nascent stages of the long-term plan. That said, why would there be any concern about acquiring a fourth outfielder — even if it is low on the list of priorities?
Moreover, don’t the Mets already have a fourth outfielder somewhere in their system? Unless something changes between now and opening day, the starting outfield will consist of Carlos Beltran, Angel Pagan, and Jason Bay. None of these three men need a defensive replacement in the late innings, and none are likely to be lifted for a pinch-hitter in any situation, either. Beltran is the only of the three who may require regular rest; if he’s the starting centerfielder, Pagan will slide into his spot on those days and a the “fourth” outfielder will step into a corner.
Now that we’ve established the regular routine, what do the Mets need from that fourth outfielder?
Ideally, he’s someone who can provide some power on the days Beltran (or Bay) is absent from the lineup. It would help, but is not necessary, if he can cover all three outfield positions; if Pagan turns out to be the starting centerfielder, both Bay and Beltran are capable of handling CF when Pagan needs a break. Additionally, this extra outfielder should also be a potentially strong pinch-hitter. In reality, the Mets probably are best suited with not only a fourth outfielder but a fifth one as well — but that “fifth” would also be versatile enough to handle an infield position (or catch) and have a slightly different skill set (i.e., hit from the opposite side, provide speed if the other has power, etc.).
Taking a cursory look at the Mets 40-man roster and high-level minor leaguers, there are several candidates to fill these roles:
You may remember this guy as the Mets’ occasional starting leftfielder in 2008. He hits from the right side, has shown flashes of power, can play all four corner positions, and might even be considered as an emergency catcher. Though he has shown an ability to take pitches and go the other way, his big swing has some holes. Additionally, he is slow on the basepaths and only marginal defensively. But those weaknesses don’t outweigh his versatility and power potential. He turns 25 at the end of January and it’s time for him to be on an MLB roster for a full year to see what he can do.
Duda is essentially the lefthanded-hitting version of Evans. He turns 25 a few days after Evans, and shares his power potential, strike-zone discipline, lead feet, and so-so glove. The main difference is that Duda can’t play 3B nor catch — but he doesn’t need to.
Wait, isn’t Daniel a first baseman? Or is it third baseman? Or second baseman? Yes.
We know Dan well for his ability to play many positions with equally poor aplomb, but we also know he has the potential to swing the stick. I never once bought into the Wade Boggs / Don Mattingly comparisons, but I absolutely believe he can be a Don Money or Mark DeRosa-type of supersub. Though it appears he will be given a shot at second base this spring, I’m guessing his glove won’t be good enough for everyday play, and therefore his bat would need to be like Dan Uggla’s to take the starting job. But that’s OK, because he could potentially get 400+ ABs coming off the bench and filling in at several positions.
Pridie is an excellent defender at all three outfield positions, has above-average speed, and hits from the left side. Early in his career he was compared to Steve Finley, and he could still fulfill that projection (if you consider Finley’s numbers before PEDs). Pridie tends to be overly aggressive on the basepaths and at the plate, so he gets caught stealing too often and doesn’t take enough walks. However he is a hustler and a great teammate. You may consider him a slightly younger version of Jeremy Reed.
Many Mets blogs love “Captain Kirk” for his all-out hustle, overachieving, and attractive OBP and OPS numbers in 2009. He hits from the left side of the plate and has above-average speed and excellent athleticism (he was a big-time high school football player). His defense is stellar, and can handle centerfield. You many consider him a younger version of Pridie and/or Reed, but with more power potential. The only concern is that his OBP took almost a 40-point drop after moving up from A ball to AA/AAA last year. But, he’s only 23 and has time to turn that around.
Adams is really a second baseman / shortstop, but he’s capable of playing the outfield corners in a pinch. He’s a lefthanded hitter who showed a little bit of pop as Toronto’s everyday shortstop in 2005, and has developed more power in AAA over the past few years. I wouldn’t consider him a long-term solution in the outfield (should such a situation present itself) but he could compare similarly to Murphy as an all-around super sub — but with a better glove.
You may note that I did not mention Fernando Martinez nor Cesar Puello — the Mets’ top two outfield prospects. That’s because neither belong in the big leagues right now, and both need to spend a full year in the minors in 2011. I also didn’t consider new Rule 5 pick Brad Emaus, Zach Lutz, nor Reese Havens, because none of those three has played an inning of pro ball in the outfield; though, we might see any of them start to shag flies this spring. Finally, I didn’t discuss Chris Carter because he is currently a free agent, and there aren’t yet any indications that the Mets will bring him back.
Still, there are at least six in-house candidates to fill that “vital” role of fourth outfielder. Personally, I see that “fourth” being a two-headed slugging monster such as Evans and Duda, though I can also envision a combination of a good glove with a versatile, offensive-minded player — such as Pridie (or Nieuwenhuis) and Murphy (or Adams).
What do you think? Who do you see as the fourth (and fifth?) outfielder? If not an in-house candidate, explain why, and offer a current free-agent who you believe is a better fit than someone the Mets already own.
The previous front office clearly didn’t think Pridie capable and therefore acquired Gary Matthews Jr. so it will be interesting to see if the current front office feels the same about Pridie. Should they feel that way I am confident that they would make a better choice than Matthews Jr. both in terms of cost and ability.
Aside from the potential for the front office to bring in more CF depth the only scenario I can see them going outside the organization for OF is if one of the players you note above gets seriously injured.
As for the Mathews / Pridie debate … I have no idea why the Mets didn’t just hold on to one of Jeremy Reed / Cory Sullivan. Either of them would have been better than Mathews, much cheaper, and wouldn’t have cost a usable bullpen arm.
That said, I think that there may be something to the notion that any existing talent shouldn’t be “wasted” in the majors (during a give-away year), giving it time to develop in the minors so that “major league service time” isn’t accrued. Of course, if you haven’t got much to lose in 2011, why not give these players some time to develop? But perhaps the notion for management is that you still need to put fannies in the seats. So if you go outside the organization and shop around for a new face, that will give fans the impression that you’re building something that might just compete today. And if you subscribe to notion that many of the fans just aren’t sophisticated enough to know the difference, perhaps my theory holds some water.
Anyway, I agree that the farm system would supply our current outfield needs, so there wouldn’t appear to be a pressing need to shop around and spend more money. They should save the cash and bank it for that future rainy day that they seem to keep planning for…faaaarrrr in the future.
There is a much bigger post here nestled in your analysis; ‘Mets outfield 2011, what would u do?’
1. LF; JASON BAY. your stuck here…he must rebound
2. CF; ANGEL PAGAN- he IS tradeable and a high potential asset…he is cheap, accomplished, under control and can play all 3 positions. I think he can net a starter if traded. Both kirk and fmart could see time at the position as well as other OF spots
3. RF. talk is that CB could be traded. He is healthy again and primed to bounce back. he makes 18M, BUT it is an expiring contract, good for a Milwaukee, or Padres type club that wants a savy veteran for a big run at the playoffs, but not an albatross multi year contract. i still think the Yanks or R-Soxx are a good match…so too the White soxx.
4. i think Nick Evans is taking Tatis’ spot. Pridie and Duda most likely Sept callups.
Actually I think Pagan could be trade bait, albeit it later in the season and assuming he continues to hit as he’s had since mid-2009. The Mets are not building for 2011 nor 2012 — they’re looking at 2013 and beyond. That said if they can get a worthwhile return for Pagan while his in his prime, I believe they’ll jump at the chance. Not that I’d be happy with it, but it wouldn’t surprise me considering the Moneyball front office.
I agree with you that Murphy was pretty awful in the outfield, but he’s been pretty awful at 1B and will be pretty awful at 2B as well — not unlike Mark DeRosa, who is equally awful no matter where you place him on the field. But, IF Murphy can provide some offense, he could be somewhat valuable if shifted around the diamond to limit his exposure on defense. If he doesn’t hit, then he’ll be in AAA.
In Buffalo, I’d run out FMart in left, Kirk in center and Duda in right. Then, in 2012, the Mets could platoon Evans and Duda in right, which could provide good production at cost controlled pricing.
The question is could these two handle the expanse of Citi’s right field or does Bay shift to right after this season?
Pridie and Evans are out of options so the idea of getting them another year of development is not sound. I would definately let Martinez and Neuwenhuis stay in AAA all year, or at least until Beltran goes on the DL. Duda to me is the guy who could go either way, I dont see him as high ceiling guy so using up his time as a bench player is not really a problem. But the numbers are against Duda because he has options, and if Murphy doesnt win the 2B job thats one more LH bat ahead of him.
It’s not as if a passable 4th outfielder is going to break the bank. You might have to pay a Reed Johnson type another $800K like he made last year. I have slightly more confidence in his ability to be passable over the longer term than I do Evans, and a guy that can play respectable defense and cover in center would help.
If you were only going to need to use them for an occasional off day and to pinch hit, I’d agree with your premise that the Mets could get away without signing another outfielder. But we don’t know if we’ll need them for more than that. The Mets may know right now they play to trade Beltran and want to have someone that can step into the full time job mid-season.
going absolutely nowhere.
On the other hand, Nick Evans MIGHT turn out to be at least as good as Johnson (or any of the other stiffs available on the market), and he’ll be dirt cheap, and he’s only 25, so there’s still an outside chance he can improve.
Also I’m not assuming that all three of Pagan, Beltran, and Bay will be healthy all season. What I AM assuming is that the team is not going to sniff the postseason, so most if not all decisions on personnel should be made in regard to 2012 and beyond. If it turns out that Beltran (for example) misses 100 games, that gives one of the younger kids an extended opportunity to turn into a legit MLBer; nothing wrong with that.