Once again, we heard yesterday free agent outfielder Scott Hairston wants a raise from his $1.1 million salary from 2012, and prefers to re-sign with the Mets because that would give him the best chance to play every day. However, it remains to be seen whether or not Sandy Alderson is seriously considering bringing back Hairston, who is rumored to be looking for something in the neighborhood of a two-year/$10 million contract, similar to the one the Red Sox gave to Jonny Gomes earlier in the winter.
According to sources, New York has enough financial flexibility right now to offer one multi-year contract this off-season, and before Cody Rosssigned his three-year deal with the Diamondbacks, Alderson preferred to spend this kind of money on an outfielder. Now that Ross is off the market, there doesn’t seem to be anymore free agent power hitting outfielders that the Mets would feel comfortable giving more than one year to.
There’s no denying the kind of year Scott Hairston had for the Mets last season; in an outfield that was a mess and didn’t have much power throughout 2012, he put together a .263/.299/.504 line with a career-high 20 homers and 57 RBI in 377 at-bats. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that he wants to return to Flushing; with Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mike Baxter, and Jordany Valdespin currently earmarked to play the outfield, he would be the only right-handed hitter in that bunch, guaranteeing significant playing time. After having the kind of year he had, Hairston wants to get the opportunity to start, but interested teams are reluctant to do so because historically, he’s struggled against right-handed pitching.
Throughout his career, he’s put together a .276/.325/.500 line against southpaws in 850 at-bats, while he’s hit .229/.288/.416 against right-handers in 1,347 at-bats. After after a career year, it’s justified that he wants to get that chance somewhere, as he’s never been able to hit against right-handers in a full-time role, which could change his results. However, since he’s been with the Mets for the last two seasons, the organization is very familiar with him and have had plenty of time to evaluate his potential as a starter; with Alderson’s unwillingness to give him a multi-year deal at this point, it’s pretty obvious they aren’t comfortable he would be able to have the same success he did in 2012 as an everyday player in 2013.
So, what should New York do now that the top tier right-handed free agent outfielders are off the market? They have to explore trades for an everyday outfielder, but getting a fourth outfielder that is right-handed should still be a priority. Someone who could be signed in New York’s price range is long-time Brave Matt Diaz. He had an injury shortened season in 2012 (.222/.280/.333 in 108 at-bats), but MLB Trade Rumors said he’s healthy and ready to contribute in 2013, and the Yankees could be a fit because of their self-imposed financial limits.
What makes Diaz and attractive option for the Mets? He’s hammered southpaws during his career (.324/.364/.498) and would likely accept a one-year deal around $1-2 million, instead of spending $8 million more and committing another year for Hairston (although he has shown a little more power). Going after Diaz and signing him now would give the Mets a viable platoon option with any of their left-handed hitting outfielders, and allow them to still have payroll flexibility to pay an outfielder if they are able to acquire one via trade (like Coco Crisp or Josh Willingham).
So, although I am a fan of Scott Hairston, I’m not a fan of Alderson giving him $10 million to be a part-time or platoon player, especially when the Mets are working with a financial ceiling. Matt Diaz would be a nice fit, but Alderson would need to pursue him quickly before the Yankees give up on Hairston and get serious about other fourth outfielder options.