Remember a few off-seasons ago when Sandy Alderson was asked about the Mets poor outfield and he sarcastically said, “What outfield?” Well, the Mets currently have another outfield problem; fortunately it is the opposite of the situation that garnered that infamous response, but it is a problem nonetheless — now they have too many quality outfielders.
Sunday evening, the Mets recalled Michael Conforto, who was raking in Las Vegas and obviously will play virtually every day in Flushing. So no problem, just slot him back in left with Yoenis Cespedes in center and Curtis Granderson in right, as it was before.
Except Cespedes now says he would prefer to play left field, in part because it is less strain on his ailing quad.
“If they give me the option, I’ll stay in left field,” Cespedes said through an interpreter, according to ESPN New York. “I’d rather play left field because I feel more comfortable. And also it’s less work on my leg.”
So if he’s in left, who plays center? And where do you put Conforto? Well, the Mets smartly played Conforto a few games in right field down in the minors to prepare him for a possible move, so you can put him there. But what do you do with Granderson? He played center earlier in his career, but he has slowed over the years and his poor throwing arm would be more of a liability in center than it already is in right.
Obviously Juan Lagares is the best defensive option in center, but he is also the fourth best hitter of the group.
I can see Cespedes playing every day with some sort of rotation between Lagares, Granderson and Conforto. Against righties, Granderson and Conforto would be in the lineup. As far as positioning, I think the Mets will try Granderson in center. If he just can’t hack it, Cespedes will have to play there, at least part of the time. Against lefties, Lagares would be in center, with Terry Collins having to choose between Conforto and Granderson in right. I think Conforto would get most of the playing time (as long as he is hitting well), with Granderson playing against particularly tough lefties.
In the end, this will give Lagares more at bats, likely at the expense of Granderson. Despite his 16 homers, Granderson is hitting just .240, although he has been picking it up lately, hitting .325 thus far in July. But Granderson turned 35 in March, traditionally the year players go downhill quickly. So maybe he would benefit from reduced playing time.
After Alderson’s utterance just a few years ago, who thought the Mets would ever be in a position to have too many good players?