Could Nyjer Morgan be a Fit in the Mets Outfield?
Yes, I’m starting to get a little desperate as the Mets continue to search for outfielders since Santa Claus didn’t leave any under the tree. Trades for quality outfielders like Coco Crisp or Josh Willingham aren’t looking likely at this point in the winter, and while most of the attractive bats in the free agent market have been signed by other teams, it’s time for Sandy to get a little creative. He has already begun doing so with his serious interest in Grady Sizemore, but in all reality, Nyjer Morgan is a name that should be on their radar.
The outfield has been and still is one of the team’s biggest issues going into the 2013 season. However, they’ve made additions by subtraction after releasing Jason Bay and non-tendering Andres Torres, and Alderson was able to swing a minor trade days after his blockbuster with the Blue Jays to acquire Collin Cowgill from the Athletics. At this point, the outfield options in Flushing consist of Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mike Baxter, Jordany Valdespin, and Cowgill. The problems with these options are that none of them have a full season of being an everyday player under their respective belts, and Cowgill is the only right-handed hitter of the bunch.
Sept 3, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Nyjer Morgan (2) gestures before a game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Scott Hairston is still in the picture to make a possible return to the Mets, but even if he does, New York still doesn’t have a proven, everyday player that can eat up some innings in the outfield. At Citi Field, where there is plenty of space to cover, it’s important to have a good defender with at least decent speed to patrol center field. Since it’s unlikely Alderson will come within 10 feet of Michael Bourn, the only other true center fielders left in the free agent market outside of Morgan include Sizemore, Scott Podsednik, and Rick Ankiel. So, even though Morgan is left-handed, he’s the last available centerfielder who has speed, is a good defender, can play every day, and can be inserted into the lead-off spot of a lineup.
The 32-year-old has spent his last two seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, and has had two very different years. In 2011, he was the catalyst for the NL Central Champions, as he hit .304/.357/.421 with 4 homers, 37 RBI, 13 stolen bases, and 61 runs scored. However, last season was not kind to Morgan, as he ended 2012 sporting a .239/.302/.308 line with 3 homers, 16 RBI, 12 stolen bases, and 44 runs scored. Due to his lackluster performance, the former sparkplug of the Brewers offense became a non-tender candidate (second-year arbitration eligible), and actually was out-righted to Triple-A in the beginning of November. The man who refers to himself as “T-Plush” declined this assignment, making him a free agent.
If Milwaukee tendered him a contract, he could have been eligible for a 2013 salary around $2.6 million, but now that the outfield market is thin and we’re about to turn the calendar to January, Morgan will likely be taking a contract for less than that, and all but definitely for only one year. So, if nobody wants him, why should Sandy Alderson give him a chance?
This goes without saying, but his price tag is in the range of what the Mets would want to spend, especially now that there are no more attractive outfielders available via free agency. However, despite being left-handed, he could give the Mets a fantastic defensive outfielder (.990 career fielding percentage) that has played most of his career in center (383 of 520 career games), and he’s hungry to prove he deserves a starting job in the Major Leagues, which will keep him motivated throughout the year. Putting someone like him in the lead-off spot can allow Terry Collins to move Ruben Tejada to the two-hole, and moving Daniel Murphy to the middle of the lineup for some more RBI chances. Although I’ve never been a fan of Morgan whenever New York saw him in the opposing dugout, I admire the way he’s been able to motivate his teammates and give them a sense of swagger.
With the Mets losing R.A. Dickey in the trade with Toronto, they lost a bit of that swagger. Thankfully, David Wright is still around to be the team’s elder statesman and leader, but they need another unique personality that can make teammates laugh and stay loose, but show the young guys how the game should be played. That’s exactly what Nyjer Morgan could offer for the Mets in 2013. Alderson said they don’t want to “punt” this season, and now that he’s at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to free agent pickups, Morgan should get a real long look from New York for all these reasons.
Do you think the Mets should give Nyjer Morgan a look, or not?