*all stats from MLB.com*
The Mets outfield situation is a topic a lot of us have been debating on ever since the news of Cespedes needing two heel surgeries. At the time, Jay Bruce was pushing through his own foot injury and playing terribly. Michael Conforto was not looking like himself in the first half. Juan Lagares missed nearly the entire season. Brandon Nimmo was the lone bright spot (in terms of the outfield) for quite some time.
Now that we are in the offseason, the thinking is a little bit different. Conforto is coming off a phenomenal second half in which he hit .273 with 17 home runs, 52 RBI and an OPS of .895. Nimmo played like an all star all season, with a slash line of .263/.404/.482. The thinking of most Mets fans now is that these two players are ones that this franchise should be building on as cornerstones, not only in the outfield but in the lineup. This leaves one spot in the outfield, assuming that Yoenis Cespedes is going to be out until July, at minimum. So what should the Mets do? Here are my thoughts on some possibilities:
- Stick with Jay Bruce in Right Field and play Brandon Nimmo or Michael Conforto in center with the other in Left Field
This seems like the most realistic choice. This would not be my first choice, but neither was the Mets signing Jay Bruce to a three year contract when they already had two 25 year-old corner outfielders. This is the pickle the team is in and unless Van Wagenen and co. make some moves, it seems like the one they are going to have to play through.
2. Trade Jay Bruce, sign a lefty-hitting center fielder to platoon with Juan Lagares and play Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo in the corner outfield positions
Personally, this would be my first choice. It is certainly well known that I love Juan Lagares. But if I HAVE to be realistic, it doesn’t seem reasonable anymore to expect him to be healthy enough to play every day. Along with this, he has not hit very well against righties when healthy, hitting .257 with an OPS of .647. Despite this, Juan Lagares’ defense is the reason he plays a role on this team. When healthy, he is one of the top defensive center fielders in the game. To get an idea of how poorly the Mets were defensively in 2018, Juan Lagares led the entire team in DRS with 6. He hasn’t played in a game since May 16th.
In terms of a lefty-hitting center fielder, one that pops into mind is Jon Jay. While he had a down year last year in terms of OPS, he has a career slash line of .285/.352/.729 (AVG/OBP/OPS). That is a slash line that should be able to play in a position like center field, especially given his on base rate, something the Mets could get a little better at. He also can play left and right field so that gives the Mets a little versatility as well. Realistically, he should not be that expensive for the Mets to sign, either. This would leave money for the Mets to improve other positions of need.
3. Trade Jay Bruce and sign AJ Pollock
I would not be too opposed to this move for a few reasons. One, the Mets could use a true center fielder. For those who do not believe Juan Lagares is good enough to play every day, AJ Pollock would be someone that could fit on this Mets team. Second, the Mets could use some more right-handed hitters. Although he did not hit as well against them last year, Pollock has previously crushed lefties throughout his entire career, owning a slash line of .275/.327/.498/.825 against them. The downside to signing someone like AJ Pollock is that he has been pretty injury prone in his career. Despite this, I see AJ Pollock as a solid player that the Mets could have interest in.
4. Trade Jay Bruce and sign Bryce Harper
Yeah, this isn’t happening…but IMAGINE if it did…an outfield of Conforto, Nimmo, and Harper would have to at least compete for one of the best outfields in the game. Not only that, but they’d all be entering the season at the ripe age of 26 (I say as if I’m not only 21 but whatever). Bryce Harper would give the Mets that edgy player they’re missing. Some fans feel as if this Mets team doesn’t have enough so-called “swag”. Well, bringing in Harper would bring all the swag a team could possibly need, and then some. Unfortunately, as we all know, the likelihood of this happening is probably similar to the likelihood of me winning the lottery. It is still fun to think about, though!
All in all, the outfield is one area the Mets and new GM Brodie Van Wagenen need to make a decision on. Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto have both proved that they are two key cogs in this Mets team for years to come. Realistically, my thinking is we will go into 2019 with the Mets having an outfield of Nimmo, Conforto, and Bruce, with Juan Lagares being a fourth outfielder. However, if Van Wagenen can trade Jay Bruce and decides that it is something he would like to do, there are a multitude of directions the team could go.