Guaranteed Left Fielder?

By Rich Sparago

Yesterday, Sandy Alderson spoke to Mike Francesa on WFAN. They discussed the state of the Mets, expertly summarized by Danny Abriano, which you can read here on Rising Apple. One of the topics Alderson expanded upon was the Mets outfield. During his review of the potential outfield for 2013, Alderson seemed to indicate that Lucas Duda was the closest thing to “sure thing” the Mets had, and that it was likely that Duda would be given the left field job.

Sept 16, 2012; Milwaukee, WI, USA; New York Mets right fielder Lucas Duda (21) during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll be honest, I’m not one of Duda’s fans. He reminds me of a typical American League outfielder of the 1970s, non-athletic, in the major leagues because he could possibly hit the long ball. As National League fans, we would sneer at the American League player profile, as our league had multi-tool players like Dave Parker, Dave Winfield, Lou Brock, and Roberto Clemente. Clearly, if Duda is the starting LF on opening day, he will be there because the Mets see his power potential. Last year, Duda hit .239, with 15 HRs and 43 RBIs. He was sent down in July, and was not better when he returned in August. Using the Bill James projection, Duda can be counted on for 18 HRs, 57 RBI, and a .268 avergae in 2013. Duda is widely recognized as a poor defender, so I wonder if his offensive history and projections can overcome his defensive liabilities to justify his role as a starting outfielder. I think it’s dangerous to go into a season projecting Lucas Duda as a starting outfielder.

During the interview on WFAN, Alderson did intimate that he wasn’t happy with the state of the Mets outfield, and handicapped the odds of a trade for an outfielder at 50/50. I’ve had some discussions with other fans about improving the outfield. It seems that the current mantra among the faithful is “hold onto the kids, and build for the future, but make the outfield better”. This is an interesting dilemma, since external options (such as Justin Upton) will cost the Mets some of their young players. An unwillingness to trade young players implies reliance on internal options. Last year, The Mets AAA outfield consisted of Corey Wimberly, Vinny Rottino, Fred Lewis, Dustin Martin, Raul Reyes, Matt Tuiasosopo, Matt Den Dekker, and Adam Loewen. It’s probably safe to say that organic improvement may not be on the horizon.

This brings us back to a question that we’ve been asking since October. How will Sandy Alderson, who says that his “stronger eye” is on 2013, improve the outfield without jeopardizing 2014 and beyond? Is it time to think about dealing a young chip, such as Jenrry Mejia or Jeurys Familia? Would that be enough to land a quality outfielder? Or, as I suggested in a previous piece on Rising Apple, does it make sense to sign a free agent (such as Michael Bourn), and sacrifice a draft pick? When you’re trying to re-build, maybe it’s better to hold on to your young players, and instead sacrifice one draft pick (and money, of course) to sign a free agent to address an immediate need.

Sandy Alderson is a man whose problems are numerous (we haven’t even discussed the bullpen), and whose options are limited. How does he live up to his statement that he’s not giving up on 2013? The next 4 weeks should be interesting. Stay tuned!

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