Which Free Agent Outfielders Should Mets Target?


The outfield in 2012 for the New York Mets has been atrocious. Not only has there not been much production coming out of those positions in the second half, Terry Collins has had to shuffle players around in platoon situations to try and kick the offense into action. However, it hasn’t worked, and one of the main contributors to the failure of the outfield has been Andres Torres.

When Sandy Alderson traded Angel Pagan to the Giants last winter, his main focus was getting help for the bullpen, which yielded him reliever Ramon Ramirez (3-3, 4.23 ERA, 1.44 WHIP in ’12), as well as Torres to play center. New York’s GM joined the broadcast booth last night and said that to have a successful team, they need to be built on either power or speed, and the Mets had neither.

Before the Mets took the field against the Braves to kick off the 2012 season, they knew they didn’t have a lot of speed, but with Torres at the top, they would have speed in the right place, hoping he returned to his 2010 form (.268/.343/.479), when he helped the Giants win the World Series. However, in 352 at-bats this year, he’s second on the team with 11 stolen bases, while David Wright leads the club with 14 steals. Also, Jordany Valdespinstole his 10th bag last night, and is only one behind Torres, while having about 150 less at-bats.

Aug 29, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Atlanta Braves center fielder Michael Bourn (24) walks back to the dugout after striking out in the eighth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

He’s making $2.7 million this season and is arbitration-eligible again this winter; rumors are that the Mets will not be tendering him a contract, making him a free agent, and leaving a hole in center field. Not saying that Torres’ .222/.320/.318 line is indispensable, but New York will have to find either a free agent solution or make another trade. There was an article from Bleacher Report  that outlined five free agents the Amazins could go after if they indeed let go of Torres. Honestly, only two of the five are even worth considering. Let’s take a look at the five outfielders featured in this particular article:

Josh Hamilton (.288/.361/.592, 43 HR, 124 RBI)

Let’s be honest here; who the heck wouldn’t want Josh Hamilton in their outfield for the foreseeable future? He has been a force in the middle of the Rangers lineup all season long, is a former AL MVP, and has played in two World Series in the last two years. He’s the type of player that wouldn’t get intimidated by Citi’s dimensions, while giving David Wright and Ike Davis legitimate protection in the middle of the order. However, thinking the Mets will have enough payroll flexibility to afford Hamilton (especially if they negotiate long-term extensions with Wright and R.A. Dickey) is foolish. Also, I doubt that Hamilton would want to play in a market such as New York. If he comes to the East coast, it will be with the Red Sox, but that’s it. So, he’s out. Actually, he was never in.

Michael Bourn (.274/.346/.391, 9 HR, 56 RBI, 39 SB)

Bourn fits exactly what the Mets would need in center field; someone that is solid defensively and not only can hit in the lead off spot, but is also a threat to steal bases once he gets aboard. I have to say that when Jose Reyes left for the Marlins, they missed his speed the most, as well as his willingness to try and steal bases. Torres has speed and can swipe bags, but obviously doesn’t have the green light that Reyes or Bourn have, as they’ve been on top of the league in regards to stolen bases. However, not only is he a free agent for the first time, but Scott Boras is his agent, so it can almost be guaranteed he will get a long-term deal for more dollars than the Mets are willing to part with right now.

B.J. Upton (.250/.302/.455, 26 HR, 74 RBI, 30 SB)

Upton could be a solution for the Mets on multiple fronts; he not only provides some pop in the lineup, but also steal bases, giving New York the best of both worlds. Add in some solid defense and some playoff experience, and he’s the perfect candidate, right? Wrong. With mostly a young team, it’s important for New York to bring in high character players that are not only ready to act as a leader in the clubhouse, but can contribute to a positive attitude. Upton has been known to not hustle out in center and on the bases on more than one occasion, while also getting into a scuffle a few years ago with teammate Evan Longoria. So, if I’m Sandy Alderson, I wouldn’t even consider Upton in this situation.

Shane Victorino (.250/.317/.370, 10 HR, 51 RBI, 38 SB)

Last week, I talked about the possibility of Victorino being a target for the Mets this winter, as it looks like he could be the best fit for what the team needs and what the outfielder will be looking for once 2012 comes to a close. With Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier under contract for the next few seasons, there is no need for Victorino in Los Angeles, unless he wants to take a reserve role, which he has already said he is not looking for. A career .275 hitter, the Flyin’ Hawaiian is having a down year, and could be looking for a two-year deal instead of the five-year contract he originally wanted at the start of the season. So, that right there could put the Mets in the running, but MLB Trade Rumors just said that the organization is unlikely to pursue Victorino; the off-season plan isn’t finalized yet, so we’ll see if he ends up on their radar.

Melky Cabrera (.346/.390/.516, 11 HR, 60 RBI)

Since he’s been suspended 50 games for testosterone, Cabrera could be cheap this coming off-season. He picked the wrong time to get caught with PEDs, as he was having a career year, and was heading into free agency for the first time. However, he fits the Mets’ needs for an outfielder with a good arm that is a force in the lineup. He’ll probably command a one or two-year deal coming off his suspension, while he also has experience playing and winning in New York, as he was a part of the 2009 Yankees World Series team. Although he could be a fit for New York, his name hasn’t come up once in any rumors and I doubt the Amazins would want to bring him into the mix now that he’s been tainted with PED use.

Other potential free agents that could be a fit for the Mets include Nick Swisher (if his asking price decreases) and the oft-injured Grady Sizemore. When healthy, Sizemore could be a force and would be coming on a real cheap, short-term deal that would benefit the Mets, but the one problem is that he can’t stay on the field. Through the trade market, players like Shin-Soo Choo and Justin Upton could be available. It will be interesting to see how Sandy Alderson and the front office attempt to fix the platoon factory in the outfield and give the lineup some sort of consistency.