New York Mets Centerfield Possibilities
Coming out of the 2019 season the New York Mets have a lot of great pieces in place. However, there were negatives too. The Mets most glaring holes are the need for a real centerfielder, a fifth starter and a massive upgrade in the bullpen. Upgrading the team defense will be hard with the limited resources Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has to use. This article will look into the players the Mets can get to patrol centerfield at Citi Field in 2020.
Cash Money Brodie
When you are talking about the New York Mets offseason moves it has to be mentioned that the owners are not willing to break the bank. According to projections, the Mets could add 20 million dollars to the payroll. That is if they don’t decide to blow past the luxury tax threshold and add even more salary. Additionally, after trading four top prospects Van Wagenen recently expressed a desire to keep his top minor leaguers.
If the Mets don’t spend money and are not trading any top prospects how can this team get the necessary players to take them to the next level? There are differing reports on the amount of money the Mets can actually spend. Since nothing has been made public by the organization, for this article 20 million will be the benchmark.
The Mets badly need a legitimate two-way centerfielder. Last season due to injuries Michael Conforto who is normally a right fielder had to play center. Conforto played as well as you would expect him to but ultimately it is time for the Mets to bring in an experienced centerfielder. There are some interesting names being mentioned in connection to the Mets and their centerfield opening.
There are some trading chips available but none are the caliber to net the New York Mets a big fish. Dominic Smith is one player destined to get traded. Smith in his limited time in 2019 showed he can hit. Smith batted .282 with 11 HR and 25 RBI in 177 at-bats. But Smith only plays first base and that is Pete Alonso’s turf now. The Mets tried to play Smith in left field. That turned out to be disastrous. Smith’s bad play cost the Mets a few games before he got injured and missed most of the season.
Another player the Mets could deal are either Andres Gimenez or Ronny Mauricio. Both Gimenez and Mauricio are shortstops and are blocked by Amed Rosario. According to MLB.COM Mauricio is ranked #80 and Giminez is ranked #92. One of these players can be moved in the right trade.
J.D. Davis was the best offseason move Van Wagenen made. There have been rumors the Mets can take a sell high approach and trade Davis coming off his break out season. Davis finally had a big offensive season but is a liability in the field whether he stays in left field or goes back to third base.
The Noah Affect
The top tier centerfielders will cost a lot in a trade and then even more in salary. So the shooting high and landing in the middle philosophy will apply here. Also, the debate rages on regarding Noah Syndergaard. Speculation is that the New York Mets are not going to re-sign Thor when he becomes a free agent after the 2021 season. So why not trade him now and fill up all your holes plus get the replacement for Syndergaard in one move. Rather than either letting him walk for draft picks or trading him next season when his value will only be lower. Van Wagenen has publicly stated that Syndergaard is not getting traded.
Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte is always mentioned in trade rumors. Marte is coming off a solid season where he batted .295 with 23 HR and 82 RBI. He also swiped 25 bags and won the Gold Glove in 2015 and 2016. Marte who is 31 years old will make 11.5 million in 2020 and 12.5 million in 2021. His salary should not be an issue in becoming a Met. But the Mets would have to trade for him. Marte is set to be a free agent after the 2021 season. The Pirates front office was cleaned out this offseason and it is not currently known what direction the team is going. Bringing in Marte would severely hurt the Mets chances of improving the team in other areas.
If you want a young low-cost player for centerfield then-current San Diego Padres centerfielder Manuel Margot is your man. Margot, 25 will make 2.1 million in 2020 and still has two more seasons of arbitration left before becoming a free agent following the 2022 season. In Margot, you get a player who can be a great defensive centerfielder with a lot of range but just an average hitter at best. Margot has a career batting average of .248 with 33 HR and 130 RBI in four seasons with the Padres. Those numbers are certainly not eye-popping. Margot has stolen 50 bases in 71 career attempts so he does have good speed.
But it does help the Mets in a few ways. For one his salary is not high. This allows the Mets to bring in more pitchers for the bullpen. By putting Margot in centerfield Conforto moves back to his natural right field position. A Margot trade should not cost the Mets much in players.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Jackie Bradley Jr. is a long shot trade candidate. This Boston Red Sox player is not the outfielder on everyone’s mind right now. All the attention is on Mookie Betts entering his free-agent season. Trading for Betts would cost a king’s ransom on top of paying Betts the 30 million-plus a year he is seeking. Bradley Jr., 29 will make 11 million in 2020 but is a free agent after the season. Bradley Jr. is a solid but not spectacular player. His career batting average is not very good at .236. He has hit 91 HR and driven in 354 runs in seven seasons playing in a mostly stacked Red Sox lineup.
Bradley Jr. is known for his defense and in 2018 he won his first Gold Glove. The Mets are a good offensive team and can certainly carry a sub-par bat to make their defense better. The question is would the Red Sox trade Bradley Jr. knowing they are going to either trade Betts away or lose him to free agency.
The Mets flirted with Adam Jones last offseason before he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Jones, 34 did not play center for the Diamondbacks last year. But he did play 106 games in 2018 with the Baltimore Orioles. Jones was blocked by Ketel Marte in centerfield in Arizona so there is not any fear of Jones playing the position. Offensively he is still good. Jones batted .260 with 16 HR and 67 RBI last season. He is also known as a good clubhouse presence. Jones made three million dollars in 2019 so a contract for the same amount would be expected. He is a free agent and will not cost the Mets any compensation.
Jones’s teammate in Arizona Jarrod Dyson could also be a possibility. The free-agent outfielder made 3.5 million in 2019. Dyson, 35 can pick it in center but is not much of an offensive player. His career batting average is .247 with 21 HR and 170 RBI. Dyson is strictly a defensive player who can run. His 250 stolen bases in 294 career attempts including a 30-4 ratio last year indicate Dyson can create havoc on the basepaths when he gets on. Just like Jones, Dyson is a free agent and will not cost the Mets any compensation.
Harrison Bader is another interesting player who could be available. The St. Louis Cardinals outfielder has struggled mightily in his first three seasons in the majors. Bader is batting .236 with 27 HR and 86 RBI. Bader is only 25 years old and made five hundred thousand dollars in 2019. He won’t hit free agency until after the 2023 season. Bader was a good offensive player in the minors batting .284 with 57 HR and 160 RBI in four seasons. If the Cardinals are looking to move on from Bader he could be a player the Mets get.
Bader is still young enough that he can become a good player. The Cardinals are a smart organization and never give anything away for nothing. Bader was the centerfielder for much of the Cardinals season in 2019. As bad as Bader has played he will cost the Mets some good prospects.
The Mets could ultimately decide to leave Conforto in centerfield and bring in a right fielder. After all, the free-agent market for corner outfielders is a little better than the centerfield market. But not by much. With free agents such as Corey Dickerson, Avisail Garcia and Alex Gordon on the market all three would be nice fits in right field. Brandon Nimmo is the only other legitimate centerfielder on the roster. Since the Mets need depth Nimmo would be retained unless he gets moved in a trade.
This is an important position for the New York Mets to fill. With the money the Mets have to spend the safe bet is to sign a lower cost player like Adam Jones or trading for Manuel Margot with his low salary and team control for the next couple of years. This would leave the bulk of the money for Van Wagenen to improve the bullpen.
As with any offseason, you never know what players might become available in a trade. So that is another possibility. But there is one thing that is certain. Met fans have no confidence in Brodie Van Wagenen to make the right moves. The New York Mets are a win-now team. This is what Van Wagenen keeps saying. So its time to make win-now moves.