The outfield has been an area of concern for the New York Mets over the last several years. The outfield play had gotten so bad that prior to the 2013 season, General Manager Sandy Alderson addressed reporters questions by responding "what outfield?" The Mets have dramatically improved their outfield situation this offseason by adding free agents Curtis Granderson and Chris Young. Granderson signed a four year, $60 million deal and Young inked a one year contract worth just over seven million dollars. With all that being said, the Mets still have a few questions to sort out with their outfield. The Mets 101 staff has identified the five biggest questions facing the Mets outfield and offer our predictions on what the answers will be.
1. How will Curtis Granderson Fit in for the Mets?
Kyle Brosnan: Granderson will provide some much needed protection to David Wright in the heart of the Mets' lineup. I'm concerned with how much he strikes out and I think that Citi Field will certainly take away some Yankee Stadium home runs, but 30 homers is not out of the question.
Mike Phillips: Granderson will be a huge addition for the Mets. The Mets desperately needed power in their outfield, and Granderson adds a massive power infusion to this team. Even though some will draw parallels with Jason Bay's contract, the big difference is that Granderson has proven he can play on a New York stage during his time with the Yankees. Even though Granderson may not hit 40 home runs in Citi Field, he should also hit plenty of doubles and triples.
Steve Popoloski: I think Granderson will provide a nice veteran presence in the middle of the Mets lineup and offer David Wright some much needed protection. Fans expecting him to hit .300 will certainly be disappointed but I don't think .265/30/90 is out of reach, even with the injuries he had last year.
2. Will Chris Young bounce back from a rough 2013 and be a sturdy outfielder for the Mets?
KB: I haven't had a chance to see Chris Young play much out west. Based on his stats, his production has steadily declined each of the past three seasons. I don't like the dollar amount he's signed for, but hopefully he could find his stroke in Flushing (much like Marlon Byrd did last year) and provide some much needed pop in the bottom of the order.
MP: Chris Young struggled last season after being demoted from a full time role, but he did display some pop. His batting average was very low, but more of his line drives should find a home in spacious Citi Field. Young also has power potential towards the bottom of the batting order, which the Mets really need. Relying on him to be a consistent player is a stretch, but the Mets took a wise one year gamble that Young can re-capture his 30-30 potential.
SP: Like Kyle, I haven't had much of a chance to see Young play in Oakland or Arizona but I do know he's stunk against the Mets with a lifetime .179 batting average versus the Amazins. Worse, at Citi Field, Young is 6 for 35, but does have a double and a triple to his name. It's a small sample size, but something to keep an eye on as his Mets debut nears.
3. What Role Will Eric Young Jr play for the Mets in 2014?
KB: I think a lot of that depends on what the Mets do with Daniel Murphy. If they trade Murphy, it looks like EY will have a crack at the starting second base job (I think Wilmer Flores should get a look at second base if Murphy is traded, but that debate is for another day). If Murphy isn't traded, I see EY as a fourth outfielder, or possibly a starter if Juan Lagares is completely dreadful at the plate.
MP: I agree with Kyle that Young's role is largely dependent on what happens in the infield. If the Mets do move Daniel Murphy to first or to another team, Young could easily slot in as the team's second baseman. Young will get a lot of playing time either way because he is the only natural leadoff man on the roster. That could change if the Mets invest in a new leadoff hitter, but Young would likely steal playing time from Juan Lagares in center.
SP: I honestly expect that Young will play in 120+ games, figuring injuries and poor performance will allow him to see his share of time in the outfield, potentially some second base (moreso if Daniel Murphy is dealt, which I hope is not the case) and pinch-running.
4. Can the Mets live with subpar offense from Juan Lagares in exchange for his Gold Glove caliber defense?
KB: It all depends on what "subpar" means. The Mets have a hard enough time as it is scoring runs with automatic outs at pitcher, shortstop (Ruben Tejada) and first base (Ike Davis). Adding another near-automatic out in Lagares will put even more pressure on guys like David Wright and Curtis Granderson to produce. We all know his glove will keep Lagares in the lineup at the start of the season. Its his bat that can force him out.
MP: As Sandy Alderson has said in the past, the Mets can't live with suboptimal production from multiple spots on the roster. Given that the Mets are likely stuck with Ruben Tejada at shortstop, that is one strike against Juan Lagares' chances to play every day. Lagares hit only .242 last season, but he has reportedly swung the bat well in winter ball. If Lagares can raise his average into the .260 range over the course of the season, the Mets would be thrilled to send him out there nearly every day.
SP: Absolutely. His offensive production wasn't great, but if he improve even a little, his glove saves enough runs to compensate. The revival of this club depends on pitching and defense first and he's a great talent to have in the outfield.
5. Do you think the Mets are done tinkering with their outfield or is there another move coming?
KB: You never know in baseball. It looks like the market for Choo has tanked a little bit and he is still on the market. Wouldn't it be nice for the Mets to shock the baseball world and sign him? I don't think the Mets would go that route, but I wouldn't rule out the Mets picking up an outfielder in a deal for Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda, or Ike Davis.
MP: I would think they are done with their major moves. The Mets could conceivably go into next year with an outfield of Granderson, the Youngs, Lagares, and either Matt den Dekker or Andrew Brown as a solid group. The Mets could always mix things up in the backup outfield spots, but I don't think another every day outfielder is walking through the door.
SP: With $22.5 M already added to the outfield and a whole cast of characters already in the mix (Young Jr., Juan Lagares, Matt den Dekker, Andrew Brown, Kirk Nieuwenhuis) I think the Mets will use their remaining budget on pitching and either shortstop or first base.
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