Up Next: The Outfield

By Rich Sparago

As the Mets and Blue Jays work to finalize a deal that will send R.A. Dickey north of the border, let’s take a look at where that deal leaves the Mets (assuming the deal is finalized). The Mets will have a hole in their rotation, but should begin 2013 with five respectable starters in Johan SantanaJonathon Niese, Matt Harvey, Dillon Gee, and either Jenrry Mejia, Zack Wheeler, or someone acquired this off season. The Dickey trade should also begin to address the team’s weakness at catcher, with stud prospect Travis d’Arnaud and veteran John Buck coming to Flushing. That leaves the bullpen and outfield as primary targets for upgrade before April 1, 2013.

A key component of any upgrade strategy is the availability of financial resources. According to Adam Rubin, the Mets current payroll commitment can be estimated at around $90.3 million for 2013. Factoring in projections that payroll may be at around $100 million this year, that leaves Sandy Alderson about $10 million to spend. The question now facing the Mets GM is, how does one go about doing the work that needs to be done with limited dollars to spend?

Looking at the free-agent market, Cody Ross and/or Michael Bourn would be

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-USA TODAY Sports

ideal for the Mets. Ross is more of a corner outfielder (who can play CF), and Bourn is a natural center fielder, with outstanding speed and a great glove. Bourn would also fill a need at leadoff, and allow the Mets to drop Ruben Tejada in the order. The Phillies are very interested in Ross, so assuming he signs with Philadelphia, let’s take a closer look at Bourn. Bourn will be 30 in 11 days, so he’s very much in his prime. Last year, Bourn hit .274 in Atlanta’s leadoff spot, while stealing 42 bases and being caught 13 times. Bourn also hit 9 HRs for the Braves. The issue with Bourn is that he’s represented by Scott Boras, and several teams (Reds, Cubs, Mariners) are said to be interested. It’s unlikely Bourn would accpet a shorter-term deal to sign with the Mets, who are generally reluctant to dole out long-term contracts.

All of this said, where does Sandy Alderson turn to populate his outfield, currently staffed by Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Mike Baxter? The trade market is certainly a possibility, but with Dickey likely gone, Alderson may not have the chips to play in that high-stakes game. Alderson seems to take a methodical approach to building a team, one move, one player at a time. If he pulls off the rumored deal with Toronto, it would be a major coup for the Mets. However, it would be one major coup. Alderson may need to have a few more tricks up his sleeve to put a competitive outfield on the Citi Field grass in 2013.