It is no secret that the Mets are looking to acquire at least one, and probably two, big-time outfielders this off-season (then again, we were saying the same thing at this time last year and we all know how that turned out). But things are different this year, so the likelihood is great that new players will be roaming the vast outfield at Citi Field in 2014.
The conventional wisdom is that the Mets will trade for one outfielder, using their minor league pitching as bait. However, that thinking was thrown a curve this week when Sandy Alderson said in a radio interview that it is “hard” to trade young arms for bats. The other outfielder will likely come as a free agent. Let’s take a look at who will be on the free agent market and could end up in Flushing.
Much of the talk surrounds Shin-Soo Choo. He is said to be the prototypical Alderson player — high on-base percentage, lots of walks. That sounds too much like Lucas Duda for my liking, although that really is not a fair comparison because Choo is a far superior ballplayer to Duda. Choo hits for a good average (.288 lifetime) and does have some power, hitting at least 20 homers twice in Cleveland. Thus far this season with the Reds he has 19 home runs.
However, the Mets need more power than the 31-year-old Choo can offer. His home run total for this season would translate to around 15 in spacious Citi Field. That just won’t cut it. I have made no secret of the fact that I am not a fan of sabermetrics, so in my opinion, paying the $15 million or more the Scott Boras client will demand is not worth it for a guy who only walks a lot. He is also said to be a lousy fielder, and we’ve all seen how much better the Mets are as a team with good defenders in the outfield as opposed to when Duda was out there.
Then there is Jacoby Ellsbury. The main problem with him is this: which Jacoby Ellsbury are you signing? Are you signing the low power, high average speedster or the masher who hit 32 home runs with 105 RBIs two years ago? After seven seasons, it appears his massive 2011 was an anomaly. He’s never even reached 10 home runs in any other season.
So the Mets would be getting a player with no power. Ellsbury is still a very good player, but the Mets don’t need another light-hitting outfielder. Ellsbury, who will turn 30 next week, is also represented by Boras. Because of that, my guess is that the bidding will start at $20 million per season. Ellsbury vintage 2011 would be worth it; the current Ellsbury? Not so much. Another demerit is that he seems to have trouble staying healthy.
How about Curtis Granderson? He certainly has power, hitting 40+ home runs each of the past two seasons. He has just four in an injury-plagued 2013. He would of course hit fewer home runs in Citi Field as opposed to the wind-aided new Yankee Stadium, but Granderson topped 20 home runs three times in Comerica Park, which is as tough as Citi Field to hit homers.
But Granderson will turn 33 during Spring Training. His best days could be behind him. I would take a chance on him, for no more than three years, at no more than $12 million or so per season. He will probably be offered more by someone else, though.
Other than these guys, there is really not much power out there in the free agent market. Many fans might clamor for Carlos Beltran, but I don’t think either side wants a reunion. Nelson Cruz will be coming off his PED suspension. He has power, but how much of it was fueled by the juice? Michael Morse could come cheaply after a poor 2013, but he could be an option at first base rather than the outfield.
So maybe the trade route is the best way to go. But really, whom do the Mets have that who can bring back an impact hitter? It could be a another long off-season for Mets fans.