The Mets Offseason – The Outfielders

Second in a series about how the Mets will reassemble a team for 2009

Like the infielders, there would not appear to be much the Mets will have to do in the outfield.  Carlos Beltran likely isn’t going anywhere (and I will tell you right now – if he did, the diatribe I write here will be legendary).  Ryan Church probably won’t get dealt either; there was a rumor started by a terrible afternoon drive sports talk radio host that he did not like playing in New York that was quickly shot down by people who had actually, you know, spoken to Ryan Church at some point in their lives.  Endy Chavez will likely be back as the 5th OF, although he is a free agent, but it is unlikely he would be offered more money or a starting job by another team.  Fernando Tatis will also likely be back in some capacity, although he too would be free to sign with another ball club.

That leaves left field as open.  It is unlikely that the Mets will go into 2009 with the Daniel Murphy/Nick Evans platoon in left field again.  If Evans is kept around, he would be better off starting 2009 in Triple-A Buffalo, as he is an unfinished product.  Daniel Murphy has probably earned some sort of spot on this team, but if he isn’t playing every day or platooning, he should probably be playing every day in Buffalo as well.  There has been talk of Murphy at first base, second base, and outfield, but it looks like Omar Minaya is shooting down the second base possibility, at least for now.  That leaves first base and left field.  First base will likely be occupied by Carlos Delgado for 2009, since it would only cost the Mets $8 million to pick up the option, but would cost another team $12 million to acquire him via trade, plus it would require Delgado waiving his no-trade option (which will probably cost a prospective buyer a contract for 2010), and plus, why create an opening when it isn’t necessary?  So figure on Murphy remaining an outfielder for 2009 if he should make the team.

But will he?  It probably wouldn’t be the worst idea to keep him in Buffalo as the first hand on deck in case Delgado, Church, or (fill in the blank) gets hurt.  Of course, if you do that, you have to make sure you have a better outfielder than Daniel Murphy to start the year.  The available free agents can pretty much be summed up thusly:  Manny Ramirez, Adam Dunn, Pat Burrell, and not much else.  You will probably read many begs and pleas for the Mets to sign Manny this offseason, and frankly, it might not be a bad move; he would add a strong power right-handed bat to the lineup, it would erase any holes the Mets would have in the order 3 through 6 to the point where they could bat Luis Castillos second, seventh, and eighth and still score a ton of runs, and it would lead to some fun shenanigans every few games.  It’s probably not a bad idea to look into, although I think in the end, it will be too pricey for the Mets to get done.

I really like Adam Dunn, but he’s not going to sign here.  His value is tied into home runs and walks, and I haven’t ever really felt like the Mets are big believers in Three True Outcomes sluggers like Dunn.  Plus, Dunn would make the Mets too left-handed unless they traded Delgado; a team with even a poor lefty specialist would be able to come in and get Delgado, Church, and Dunn out without having to face any switches or righties other than Beltran.  I’d love if Dunn signed here, since I’ve always admired his ability to mash and draw walks, but that isn’t happening.

Burrell is an interesting option.  He has made his career for being a Mets killer, so the Mets signing him would be a great way to keep one Phillie from consistently destroying them.  He’s put together four really strong seasons in a row for the Phillies, and he has been a good enough hitter on the road to where you can’t necessarily say it’s all the ballpark (he was, in fact, a better hitter away from Citizens Bank Park in 2008).  The minuses are his defense, which is terrible, on a team that seems to put a premium on outfield defense, important with all of the fly ball pitchers they covet.  Of course, if they retained Endy Chavez, they could use Endy to play left in the later innings, much like the Phillies have done this past season with So Taguchi.  I do think Burrell probably will not leave the Phillies, because unlike when Aaron Rowand left last year, the Phillies do not have a ready-made replacement for Burrell in left field, but if he did explore the free agent market, I could see the Mets getting really involved here.

There is even another option in play here; re-sign Moises Alou.  Now, I know the mere thought of bringing Alou back would cause most Mets fans to recoil, but at a lower salary, in a platoon with Murphy, it might not be a bad idea.  If Alou is open to signing a one-year, incentive-laden contract, it might be a good gamble.  Worst case scenario, Alou gets hurt and the team platoons Murphy with Tatis instead (they could keep Tatis around as a super utility/pinch hitter and see if they can dump Marlon Anderson).  If they could get Alou to sign for one year at, say, $4 million with at-bat incentives built in, it could be a decent option to fill left field.  Then again, maybe it’s time they moved on from Moises; he gave the team good hitting down the stretch in ‘07, but he may not be capable of doing that again.

So that’s where we stand with the Mets’ outfield.  Beltran will be in center, Church will be in right.  We could see a left field platoon of Daniel Murphy and Fernando Tatis or even Moises Alou, or we could see the Mets signing a big name acquisition.  There is also the possibility of a trade, much like the one that brought Ryan Church to Queens last fall.  It’s not readily apparent what the team will do to fill the left field vacancy, but it will be a story worth following.

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