“What Outfield?”


It doesn’t matter what the Mets’ front office says publicly about the postseason chances of the 2013 club.  For anyone who has been paying attention, it’s clear that the Mets’ hopes are pinned on 2014 and beyond.  Regardless of what the team professes in public or in private, I can assure you that Sandy Alderson does not view his club as title contenders, or even playoff contenders.

Stop worrying  about the fact that the team won’t “admit” what its expectations are for 2013.  They won’t “admit” what their expectations are, nor does it matter.  What matters, is what the team does to address their needs.  Going into the offseason, the Mets’ main area of concern was the outfield.  As we sit here on January 7th, the outfield is still a  major concern.

June 14, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; New York Mets left fielder Jason Bay (44), center fielder Andres Torres (56) and outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis (9) in the outfield against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. New York Mets defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 9-6. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After the 2012 season ended, the Mets cut ties with Jason Bay, and thankfully let Andres Torres walk.  Aside from that, they have done little else to date that is likely to positively impact the makeup of the 2013 outfield.  They made a few low-risk minor league signings that may turn out to pay dividends (Collin Cowgill and Andrew Brown).  However, those signings will most likely amount to nothing.  I don’t say that to be harsh to either of those players, I say it because it’s true.

In early November, Sandy Alderson was asked how he planned to address the outfield.  He responded by quipping “what oufield?” and by joking that he’d have to move the Citi Field fences in an additional 150 feet.  When a general manager tells the assembled media that his outfield situation is a laughing matter, one would think the matter that was so funny would be addressed in the coming months.

It’s fine that the Mets didn’t sign any big name free agent outfielders.  The only true impact guy was Josh Hamilton, and that was never happening.  It’s OK that the Mets have seemingly balked at what they see as the exorbitant price other teams are asking in exchange for impact outfielders.  What isn’t acceptable, is turning a discussion about the state of your outfield into an Abbot and Costello routine, and then doing nothing substantive to address the outfield.

If Sandy Alderson wanted to go into the 2013 season with Kirk Nieuwenhuis platooning with Collin Cowgill in center, Lucas Duda in left, and Mike Baxter and Andrew Brown in right, he should’ve kept quiet about what a riot he thinks they all are.  Now that he’s bashed them to the media, it seems ridiculous that he might actually go into the season relying on them.

Here’s the Mets’ problem: presently, they have zero capable starting outfielders.  Even for a team that isn’t expected to contend, that’s crazy.  For a team in New York that supposedly has some cash to spend, it’s unfathomable.  It’s fine to have platoons at a few positions, but you can’t have platoons for each outfield spot.  If you did, you’d be unable to fill the remainder of your bench.

Of the Mets’ top 25 or 30 prospects, only four are outfielders.  The only one with major upside, Brandon Nimmo, will open next season in A ball and is at least a few years away.  The next three (Matt den Dekker, Cesar Puello, and Cory Vaughn), are all too raw to be considered for the Majors at this point, and none are seen as impact bats.  den Dekker should open 2013 in AAA Las Vegas, and although his defense is already above average, the bat is simply not ready (and it may never be).  Puello and Vaughn aren’t close to being options and will both likely open 2013 at AA Binghamton.

Should the Mets have thrown money at Cody Ross?  No.  Should they tear apart the rest of their farm system in order to meet Arizona’s current demands and acquire Justin Upton?  No.  Is it easy to find capable starting outfielders without burning money and/or pillaging your farm system?  Absolutely not.  The aforementioned is why I wish Sandy Alderson had simply said nothing when the media asked him about his outfield a few months ago.

The fans know as well as Sandy does, that the Mets are unlikely to amount to much this year as far as wins and losses are concerned.  I’m fine with that, and I think the majority of the fanbase is OK with it as well.  The issue, is that with the Mets seemingly aiming to contend in 2014, the outfield is likely to still be a huge problem going into next offseason if the team fails to acquire new talent.  It’s permissible for the front office to start thinking about the 2014 and 2015 outfield before this season begins, but it often seems as if Sandy Alderson doesn’t realize that.  Unless the team plans to open the vault for Jacoby Ellsbury (who would first have to stay healthy), the Mets need to address their outfield in a more creative way.

As he did with the R.A. Dickey trade, it’s imperative for Alderson to again deal from an area of strength, but to address the outfield this time around.  Just when the majority of the fans had lost all faith in him, Alderson turned Dickey into Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, and Wuilmer Becerra.  That excitement has unfortunately been extinguished by the fact that the outfield is still a running joke without a punchline.

It’s time for another inspired move.  This isn’t a demand for an MVP type player who can immediately slide into right field and the 4th slot in the batting order.  It’s a plea for the Mets to acquire someone (no matter what type of transaction it is) who has a chance to turn into an impact bat for this team in the outfield in the near future.  Deal for someone who’s raw and needs to be coached up, trade prospects for prospects, sign an international free agent.  If 2014 truly is a year where the Mets plan to contend, the front office needs to start proving it to both the players and the fans.  The Dickey trade was a great start, but not nearly enough.