Terry Collins says no decisions have been made about this season’s outfield alignment
Mets manager Terry Collins said recently that during games when Juan Lagares starts, he could be in left field with Yoenis Cespedes in center field — an alignment the team used during their game on Friday.
On Cespedes, Collins said the team has “talked about whether or not moving him around is the best thing.”
Regarding Lagares, Collins noted that he wants to get him “comfortable in other places besides center field.”
Cespedes, who played primarily center field last season after being acquired from the Tigers, said a few weeks ago that he prefers to play left field but that he’ll play wherever the team asks him to.
Lagares, who won a Gold Glove in center field in 2014 but regressed defensively in 2015 — in part due to an elbow injury that impacted his positioning — has never started a big league game in left field.
There’s two things to dissect here, with one having to do with the positioning of Cespedes and Lagares and the other regarding the playing time of Michael Conforto.
Cespedes is a below average defender in center field and Lagares — when healthy — is a Gold Glove-caliber defender in center field, so having them both play out of position would be quite odd.
Wanting one player (Cespedes) to have continuity and another (Lagares) to get exposure at other positions would is understandable in some other instances, but it’s hard to be on board with it as it pertains to Cespedes and Lagares. For the 2016 Mets, it would mean having one negative defender and one question mark in the outfield instead of having two plus defenders.
The alignment Collins is discussing would also seemingly eliminate Michael Conforto from the conversation when it comes to playing time against left-handed pitchers, and that’s disconcerting.
Conforto didn’t get many at-bats against left-handers in the majors last season after his promotion, but he has hit them well at times in the minors. And he should get the chance to do the same at the major league level.
Prior to Spring Training games getting underway, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said that Conforto would get exposure against left-handers this season, though he wasn’t expected to play against all of them.
Alderson also said that Conforto should get some exposure in right field, and that hasn’t happened yet.
As I suggested two months ago, the Mets’ best alignment against left-handed pitching would likely be Cespedes in left field, Lagares in center field, and Conforto in right field, with Curtis Granderson — who struggled mightily against left-handers last season — on the bench.
To listen to Collins, though, it seems that Conforto might find himself on the bench against all left-handers, while a non-ideal outfield alignment is trotted out. And that would be both puzzling and unfortunate.