The New York Mets didn’t sign Starling Marte for his charming personality. They did it to play center field—or so we thought.
Incumbent center fielder Brandon Nimmo has been expected to move to one of the corner spots (likely right field) to make room for Marte. Given the performance Nimmo had in 2021 as a center fielder where he was above average, he has a legitimate case. So when Nimmo says he would prefer to remain at the position in 2022, there's some logic to it.
Marte has won Gold Gloves before but those were in his younger years and as a left fielder. Nobody should expect him to play center field during his entire tenure in Queens. Right now, the Mets have to figure out who gets the majority of those innings.
The Mets center field situation doesn’t have to be too complicated
Marte should start the season in center field. There’s no doubt about it. Nimmo’s preference could, in part, be because a center fielder on the open market is far more valuable than a corner outfielder.
Let’s not forget this is Nimmo’s walk year. He also now has Scott Boras as his agent. Boras could convince the San Diego Padres to sign a snowman if Frosty could play multiple positions.
Like many plans, starting Marte in center field might not last the whole year. Nimmo should certainly become a contender to swap spots with him. That’s the beauty of having three outfielders with so much flexibility even if there is a question about the ability of each to play center field.
Marte has regularly been in the negatives as far as Rdrs goes while playing center field. His career total is -12 compared to the 71 as a left fielder. Marte may, in fact, be the best defensive left fielder in the game right now. At 33-years-old, we should suspect a further decline on defense. Those things can come on suddenly.
Nimmo has far fewer positives to talk about during his innings spent as a center fielder. However, the recent positive turn in 2021 was a huge leap forward. If Marte seems to struggle at the position, a switch could be in order.
Although Nimmo has his eyes on center field, he is willing to play wherever the Mets want him to. He’s that kind of guy. He’s a teammate. He understands that one season excelling at a spot the Mets needed to fill for several years doesn’t help him win a job automatically.
However the Mets decide to align their outfield on Opening Day, expect all three to end up playing a couple of different spots. Between injuries and days of rest, Nimmo will get to see some center field action this year. Boras better save the highlights for when his client hits the open market.