9/6/17

Reese Kaplan -- What Outfield? (Part Deux)

10 comments

It seems like just a short time ago that manager Terry Collins had to figure out how to shoehorn in playing time for Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto, while rendering Gold Glover Juan Lagares into a mere afterthought.  How times have changed and now heading into 2018 the Mets are once again facing the classic Sandy Alderson, “What outfield?” question.   Cespedes is hurt, Conforto’s undergoing surgery this week and will be off baseball activities for up to 6 months before starting to prepare for the season, and we’re getting now a steady diet of Lagares, Brandon Nimmo, newcomer Norichiki Aoki and occasional glimpses of Travis Taijeron.

With the vast uncertainty around Michael Conforto’s eventual return date, many are already clamoring to retain the services of Aoki who has been a pesky hitter with a high on base percentage and the ability to steal a base (though not quite as well as he did in his younger days).  This season he was on a $5.3 million contract when he was cut by the Blue Jays and the Mets picked him up for the prorated major league minimum for the remainder of the deal.  Owing to the fact he started his MLB career relatively late, despite being 35 years old he remains under team control for next year, his final season of arbitration before becoming a free agent in 2019.  With about a half-season’s worth of combined production for three teams, he’s delivered 5 HRs, 30 RBIs, 6 SBs and a .278 AVG.  It’s more or less in line with his career averages of .285/7/47 with 21 SBs.  The power is up a bit and the speed is down, but performing as he has you can expect an arbiter to award him at least $6 million for the 2018 season.

Whether you consider $6 million fair value or not depends on the role you envision him playing on the Mets.  As a starter, it’s not unreasonable, though one could argue that a rebuilding team shouldn’t be banking on outfielders turning 36 as part of the plan.  When the season begins you’d have to pencil in Cespedes, Lagares and either Nimmo or Aoki to man the three positions in the outfield.  In a word, “Ugh!”

As a part time player you could make the argument he’s a good veteran presence to have much like some would argue the same for Asdrubal Cabrera.  However, you’re already going to be paying $6.5 million next season for Juan Lagares and close to minimum for both Nimmo and Conforto, so the money is there. 

However, I think the better strategy would be to cut ties with one of Lagares and Aoki, instead putting those dollars towards the salary of an RBI bat to help ease the loss of Conforto (as well as the slugging duo who departed in Granderson and Bruce).  If you found, for example, a $16 million bat, then the incremental cost is in just the $10 million range if you non-tender Aoki or trade Lagares. 

Now who’s out there in free agent land that might interest the Mets?  Well, the first obvious answers are a Jay Bruce reunion or J.D. Martinez.  They provide power and run production at a star level.  After that the pickings get different , if not slim.  Lorenzo Cain is a terrific all around ballplayer though not a slugger.  Melky Cabrera hits for 10-15 HR power and usually a high batting average.  You could roll the dice on a pillow contract for Carlos Gonzalez who, at age 31, has seemingly fallen apart for the Rockies.  An even bigger gamble would be the Cabrera-like offense of the released Allen Craig who also seems to have lost whatever it was he had in his Cardinal days.  Carlos Gomez is set to be a FA but he’s been in a downhill spiral for awhile now.  After that it’s the trade market but without many chips in the system that would be appealing to other clubs it might be difficult to find partners.

Given that there are no outfield prospects on the horizon in the Mets system I think the prudent move would be to go all-in on Martinez, Cain and Bruce in that order.  I like Martinez first because he is right handed which helps balance out the power from Conforto and perhaps Dom Smith.  I like Cain because he is also right handed, plays a very good centerfield and adds speed to go along with modest power and run production.  Bruce has proven he can play here and be productive.  In the cases of Martinez and Bruce you’d be committing to Conforto in CF, but my eyeballs didn’t see any glaring problems out there.  He’s not Lagares but he’s not Lucas Duda in the outfield either. 


Now the Mets being the “ahem” frugal organization that they are, could defray the cost of one of these investments even further by BOTH non-tendering Aoki and trading Lagares.  Nimmo becomes your fourth outfielder and you’d have to acquire a 5th one from somewhere (and a temporary 6th one until Conforto is ready to play).  This approach would give you $13.5 million to pay towards the new contract of the FA outfielder you acquire.  In that scenario you could look to take a flyer on a guy like Allen Craig and see if he is healthy and has anything in the tank at age 33 and is willing to take something on the order of a $2 million deal to keep playing off the bench. 

How do you see the 2018 outfield unfolding?  (Before Tom chimes in, Tim Tebow is not one of the potential answers…yet.)  

10 comments:

Thomas Brennan said...

My vote is for Bruce. Is his middle name Tim?

Mack Ade said...

Morning Reese -

I take it we are all now happy that the Mets signed Lagares to an extension awhile back.

Thomas Brennan said...

I was hoping to see Matt Reynolds in CF, Mack. Reminds me ofa line in the movie "Legend" with Will Smith, as he sees the zombies' deteriorating state: "De-evolution is complete." This team has devolved.

Mack Ade said...

Look, I hate to start a trend here and begin what direction my writing will be going in the future, but I don't see the Mets being a mid to top level team in 2018.

There are too many holes too fill, a less talented free agent market than 2019 will be, and an owner that will now tell everyone "I did it your way and what did that get me?"

My guess is 2019 will get us the top bat 3B and OFer we need.

I also expect 2018 will be a year to let guys like Conforto to slow heal.

Peter Hyatt said...

Sandy Alderson signaling lower payroll for 2018. The need to signal this now suggests lower than what Met fans will be comfortable with.

Alderson is acutely mindful of media and chooses his words carefully.

Thomas Brennan said...

As I read everyone's comments, a bird outside my office was going "cheep, cheep, cheep."

Or was it CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP?

Not sure, but I think that bird is onto something :)

Eddie Corona said...

we use to have no OF then this year too many OF and now No OF again...

Conforto's Injury could devastate this Franchise more than any other since he was Sandys lone player of worth...

Reese Kaplan said...

Well, you do have to give a tip of the cap for Amed Rosario, perhaps Dom Smith, perhaps Pete Alonso, perhaps some of the pile of relievers acquired in the fire sale...

Of course the other side of the ledger is butt ugly.

Adam Smith said...

At this point, I agree with Mack that 2018 is not going to be our year. At least not to be one of the top 5-8 teams in baseball. Am I OK with that? I don't really think it matters, as I don't see a path from here to there by next season. That said, I would look at '18 as a sorting out year. Plenty of time for Nimmo, Lagares, Rosario, Smith, Plawecki, Flores (at 2B, please), and maybe some for Cecchini. Roles in the bullpen for a rotating cast of the new and old young arms on the farm, and a real assessment on a number of the current starters, as well as a get well year (lots of rest) for both Conforto and Cespedes. If you're in a position to pick up one FA that either won't break the bank, or who profiles as someone that can be a major piece for multiple years, do it. But don't overpay for older players in the hopes of contending in '18. This will also give some of the kids on the farm (Alonso, Oswalt, I'm looking at you) to show whether they could be important '19 pieces as well. Save some cash, and figure out where your real needs will be heading into what should be a stacked '19 FA class, and make a splash there with one or two real impact signings. I can live with spending '18 watching the kids (please, no more Reyes, Cabrera) and getting ready to take a big leap the following season. What I don't want to see is tying up money and squandering future flexibility for the illusion of a run in '18. So much would have to all go right at once that I can't even pretend to believe in that.

Anonymous said...

my guess is a Curtis Grandson reunion on a 1 year $8-10 million deal.

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