When Anthony Rizzo caught the final out of the World Series, the MLB offseason had officially gotten underway. Like any winter, this MLB offseason is set to be a fun one. The free agent market is on the weaker side, but that will only lead to extra trade talks. There will be rumors and questions flying around in the coming months, and MLB fans will surely have plenty to chew on before Spring Training arrives. Only of the biggest questions of this winter will revolve around the New York Mets and their outfield.
The Mets outfield is a large puzzle at the moment. With their current configuration, the team has three corner outfielders who are all left handed, with Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto set to start. The team also has youngster Brandon Nimmo, who is also a lefty who plays a corner outfield slot, in the minors, as well as defensive wizard Juan Lagares.
But just because the team has three players to fill their outfield, it does not mean they are satisfied with the current situation. Granderson is going to turn 36 before the season, and is coming off a .237 season where he smashed 30 homers. He goes into these extremely deep funks where he cannot hit his way out of a paper bag, and is entering his contract year. So when all is said and done, he likely will not be wearing a Mets uniform come 2018.
Jay Bruce was a big time mid-season acquisition by the club who faltered. The soon to be 30 year old batted .219 and hit eight home runs while playing in 50 games with the team. The team recently picked up Bruce’s 2017 option, which represents the final year of his current deal.
Michael Conforto will be turning 24 in the Spring, and entered last season with high expectations. But 2016 did not turn out like the Mets or Conforto had planned, as he ended the season with 12 home runs, 42 RBIs and a .220 batting average in the big leagues. He had gone into such a poor slump during the season that he was sent down to AAA for a period of time.
Now none of these men are natural center fielders, meaning as of right now, Granderson is set to man center. But the Grandy Man has a very poor arm, and is not well suited to cover the middle of the field. That plus overall disappointment in the current group has led the Mets to seek out help on the open market.
GM meetings breaking up. Mets had preliminary talks about Bautista, Fowler, etc., but their main focus is still Cespedes.
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) November 10, 2016
The perfect fit for the team would be Dexter Fowler, who is coming off a World Series victory with the Chicago Cubs. Fowler represents an athletic switch hitter who not only slots right into center, but also the top of the lineup. In 2016, he batted .276, while stealing 13 based and scoring 84 runs for the World Champions. But he was extended a qualifying offer, which he has declined, meaning he will have draft pick compensation attached to his name.
The inclusion of Jose Bautista’s name is a bit surprising, as he is an aging slugger coming off a down season. Given he does not offer much upside, one would imagine he interests the Mets simply because of his power and the fact that he would offer a right handed bat. Bautista hit 22 home runs in what was a down season that saw him battle several injuries.
But as the tweet implies, Yoenis Cespedes still tops the teams wish list. After a sensational season with the Mets, Cespedes opted out of his deal like everyone expected him to, making him the top free agent on the market this winter.
Sandy Alderson met with Cespedes' lead agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, briefly on Wednesday. One of what should be many upcoming meetings. #Mets
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) November 10, 2016
Cespedes is coming off a career year. He won his first career Silver Slugger Award, thanks in part to 31 home runs and a career best .884 slugging percentage. He batted .280 and drove in 86 runs and scored 72 runs on a team that was offensively challenged at times. Cespedes was the teams offense, and bringing him back into the mix will surely be something the fans want to see.
But if the team does manage to bring Cespedes back, or even someone else like Fowler or Bautista, what happens to the current configuration? Well we know if Cespedes is back, he is obviously going straight into the lineup, most likely left field. But he is also capable of playing center if he needs to, meaning that is also a possibility.
Other teams have approached Mets about trades for Conforto, Granderson and Bruce.
— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) November 10, 2016
If the Mets do sign an outfielder, and I suspect they will, one of the current players is almost a lock to get traded. Michael Conforto is the most likely to get bumped out of his current starting role upon a new addition. Given he has five years of control left, and is still extremely young, he would certainly be the most appealing trade option to other clubs. But that does not eliminate the idea of either Bruce or Granderson getting dealt. Given both men are in contract seasons, the Mets may prefer to deal one of them.
If the Mets signed either Cespedes or Fowler, their most likely plan for the outfield moving into the future would feature either of those men, Conforto and Nimmo. Bruce and Granderson are not likely to be back with the club beyond this season, unless they have really solid years. Lagares is simply a defensive outfield replacement, and his days as a starter are likely behind him. So would the team be willing to trade one of their two young guys in Conforto and Nimmo, opening up outfield questions in the future?
The bottom-line is the Mets outfield is in the state of flux as we enter the heart of the winter months. While the team may look set with three known names, their pursuit of free agents like Cespedes and Fowler make it clear that is far from the case. The team knows Cespedes made the team go in 2016, and will certainly need to make an effort to bring him back. In addition the team could also turn to the trade market to change things up. The team needs to add a righty to this mix, and preferably one who can also offer the option of playing center field.
So how will things shake out this winter? What will the Opening Day outfield look like for the New York Mets in 2017? Only time will tell. Buckle up and enjoy the ride that is the baseball offseason!