As the 2013 off-season begins, it’s time for speculation. It’s what we do as baseball fans. Talking about the game (and our teams) is a way to keep the sport close during the winter months. Mets talk this off-season will surely center on the numerous holes the Mets have to fill, and the pool of players available to fill them.
Arguably, the Mets’ needs include a shortstop, two outfielders, two starting pitchers, and possibly a first baseman from outside the organization. Unlike previous off-seasons, the Mets have some money to spend (in the neighborhood of $35 million), and some players to trade. Even with this scenario, they may not be able to fill all of their holes. So, let the prioritization begin.
Rising Apple’s Danny Abriano wrote here this week that, on a contending team, Eric Young, Jr. is a fourth outfielder, thereby leaving left field as a position to possibly fill from outside the organization. I agree with Danny. On a good team, Young is an ideal super-sub. His ability to play three positions (left field, center field, and second base), and speed off the bench, would add considerable value in that role. However, let’s look at priorities.
Assuming the Mets can fill two position players from outside the organization (along with a starting pitcher, which Sandy Alderson has said is his plan), I’d prefer to see them target shortstop and right field.
The hole at shortstop is rather significant. Incumbent Ruben Tejada posted a triple slash of .202/.259/.260, and spent two months in AAA after an injury. Omar Quintanilla‘s triple slash was quite similar at .222/.306/.283. Wilfredo Tovar is not ready for the major leagues. Therefore, the Mets may look at Stephen Drew, or other external candidates this winter. That will cost some (and maybe a significant amount of) the available resources. However, the need for a shortstop is very high.
In my opinion, right field is priority number two this winter. After the departure of Marlon Byrd (who posted 21 HR, 71 RBI and a .285 BA as a Met), right field was weak. Matt den Dekker saw some time in right field, and showed some promise. Andrew Brown also earned some playing time after Byrd, putting up a .227 BA, 7 HR, and 24 RBI. But on a winning team, those numbers are not adequate, nor is the “promise” of a young player. The Mets will need to look for a significant bat in right field (the name Carlos Beltran is being thrown around). Acquiring that bat will certainly deplete a fair amount of the personnel and/or financial resources available.
Next, assuming there are players to trade and/or money left, there’s first base. Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are internal candidates. Davis’ inconsistency and Duda’s failures with runners in scoring position will work against them. If Alderson decides to bring in a first baseman, you guessed it, more resources are drained from the tank. Finally, there’s the need for two starting pitchers. This week, Alderson said he’d prefer not to go with prized prospects Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero from the outset. The resources continue to dwindle.
Now we’re back to the original point, the role of Eric Young, Jr. Ideally, the Mets would upgrade left field. Young certainly has his shortcomings, namely an OBP of .318, which does not allow him to make full use of his speed (though he led the National League in stolen bases this year). He also has a limited throwing arm. However, his speed allows him to run down many balls that might find grass under other circumstances.
In the grand scheme of things, could the Mets live with Young as their starting left fielder in 2014? I say they can. There’s no question that his speed energizes the ball club, and allows the hitters behind him to see better pitches to hit. His daily hustle and enthusiasm are contagious on the club. While his .251 batting average needs to improve, there’s enough to his game to make left field a lesser off-season objective. The Mets, in my opinion, can live with EY Jr. as a starter. If they can upgrade (after other needs are filled), they should. However, I see it as lower priority.
What are your thoughts?