With Michael Conforto now a free agent, the Mets are going to need to acquire an outfielder this offseason. That could mean bringing Conforto back, but it feels like it’s more likely than not that he goes elsewhere.
At the very least the Mets will need to bring in his replacement, and it’s possible — if not likely — that the team will be in the market for another starting outfielder as well.
Mark Canha is a really interesting option to sure up one of the open spots in the Mets outfield.
Canha isn’t a superstar. He’s not going to be in the discussion for the NL MVP, and he’s likely not going to be an All-Star. However, what’s undeniable is that he is a quality, above-average major league outfielder.
Last season Canha hit .231/.358/.387. It was certainly a bit of a down year, but he still had an OPS+ of 111. His .746 OPS would have been No. 3 among qualifiers on the Mets, and his .358 OBP would have been No. 2.
Over the past four seasons, Canha has an OPS of .807 and OPS+ of 124, both extremely close to what Conforto put up over that same span.
One thing is for sure — he gets on base. Canha has spent his entire major league career in the Oakland A’s organization, after all. Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt would be proud.
He has a .366 OBP since 2018, which sits among some of the elite players in baseball. It’s better than players like Kris Bryant, Jose Ramirez, Trea Turner, George Springer, Ketel Marte and Nelson Cruz, just to name a few.
The most enticing part about Canha though isn’t any of that — it’s the fact he’s going to come a lot cheaper than a lot of the other starting-caliber outfielders on the market.
Mets fans want to spend big this offseason, and understandably so. With the richest owner in baseball, the Mets should have one largest payrolls in baseball. With that said, it’s just not feasible to have players on mega deals at every position.
The Mets already have $155 million committed to 2022 according to Spotrac and a ton of holes to fill. Fans already want to dish out huge contracts to Javy Baez and Marcus Stroman at a minimum, just to keep them in town. They’ve also added players like Bryant, Carlos Correa, Marcus Semien, Nick Castellanos, Starling Marte, Kevin Gausman and many others to their Christmas lists.
But here’s the thing, no matter how rich an owner is, a team can’t have a $400 million payroll. Even if you don’t want to hear that, it’s the truth.
The Mets can’t have a starting lineup of Brandon Nimmo, Francisco Lindor, Correa, Pete Alonso, Castellanos, Baez, Marte, McCann, Semien. The Mets can’t have a rotation of Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Gausman, Rodon and Carlos Carrasco. Financially, it’s not possible.
Sometimes, you have to go looking for value, not just pure talent. Canha is value personified.
MLB Trade Rumors predicts Canha will receive a 2-year, $24 million deal from the Cleveland Guardians. A .350-plus OBP guy who can play all three outfield spots for that price tag? The Mets should sign him to that contract in a heartbeat. Even increasing the AAV by a little bit and adding another year or two should be a no-brainer.
Heading into his age-33 season, Canha still has a few years of quality baseball left in him. Bringing him in to be a veteran stalwart in the outfield would be reminiscent of when the Mets signed Curtis Granderson in 2014.
At the time, Granderson was also heading into his age-33 season, and the Mets gave him $60 million over 4 years. Over the four seasons prior, he had a .829 OPS and 120 OPS+, both remarkably similar to Canha’s last four seasons.
Fans know how valuable Granderson was to the Mets while he was in Queens, especially in 2015. Canha has the potential to take a similar path.
They’re far from identical players — Canha has less pop but trades that for getting on base more often. Even so, they’re both players who can step in at all three outfield spots (even if not overly well) as well as hit anywhere in the lineup, from first to ninth.
Last season the A’s primarily used Canha as their leadoff hitter, but over his career he’s played at least 60 games in seven different spots in the order.
He can be a plug-and-play outfielder for the Mets, someone who can slide in wherever is needed. He’s even played over 100 games as a first baseman in his career, so he could act as the backup to Alonso, giving the Mets a lot more freedom to trade Dominic Smith if they decided to do so.
Canha is a good player — but he’s an excellent signing for his expected price. Not only would bringing him in add a valuable piece to the lineup, but with an outfield spot taken care of, it would let the Mets spend big money elsewhere.
You can’t sign everyone. Even if you want to, the player might not share that desire. If Canha has an interest in putting on the orange and blue, the Mets should do everything in their power to make it happen.