The New York Mets biggest need this offseason was at center field. George Springer was the marquee name available and the Mets have been linked to him since the 2020 season ended. After signing James McCann instead of the best catcher on the market in J.T. Realmuto this led many to believe the Mets were going to use their money on Springer. With a new billionaire owner who wants to make a big splash all of baseball was sure Springer would be in Queens in 2021.
The Toronto Blue Jays swooped in and signed Springer to a six-year 150 million dollar contract. Reportedly the Mets offered 125 million dollars and the fickle Mets fan base was left wondering what happened to the promise of the Mets spending like a big market team. Trading for superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor apparently is not enough for the Mets fans. Lindor is in the last year of his contract and will cost the Mets more money than Springer got. More on that later. So with Springer off the market, what are the New York Mets center field options?
The Mets do not have any depth in the outfield. Michael Conforto is the right fielder. Brandon Nimmo is penciled in as the center fielder with Dominic Smith in left field. Nimmo struggled in center last season and Smith is not an outfielder. As of now, the designated hitter is not in play for the 2021 season. So if the Mets want Smith’s bat in the lineup he will have to play left field. Jose Martinez was signed as a backup but he can only play the corner outfield positions.
The only other players on the Mets roster who played the outfield are Jeff McNeil and J.D. Davis. Both players are starters in the infield unless the Mets bring in other players. But McNeil and Davis also are not outfielders and both struggled when they were asked to play there. Springer was the perfect player for the Mets. He would have become the everyday centerfielder and Nimmo would move over to left. The signing of Springer would have killed two birds with one stone.
Now that Springer is a Blue Jay, here are some of the New York Mets center field options.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Jackie Bradley Jr. is the name that has been connected to the Mets the most aside from Springer. Bradley made 11 million dollars in 2020 with the Boston Red Sox so it makes sense to think the Mets would need to pay a similar annual amount in a multi-year contract. While Bradley is considered a good defensive centerfielder he is not much of a hitter. With the National League not using the designated hitter in 2021, this would mean the Mets have two automatic outs at the bottom of their lineup.
Bradley has a career slash line of .239/.321/.412 which is not very good. But he did bat .283 last year in 55 games which could be an encouraging sign. Bradley would be the most expensive of the available centerfielders. Scott Boras is his agent and he could be looking for a lucrative contract for Bradley. According to reports, the Mets have focused on signing Bradley.
Albert Almora is another player the Mets have reportedly checked in on. Unlike Bradley, Almora might not be an everyday player. His greatest asset to the Mets would be his low cost. Almora made 1.575 million dollars with the Chicago Cubs last season. He will be 27 years old when the 2021 season starts and is not known for his offense. An Almora signing would be a tough pill for this Mets fan base to swallow when Springer was rumored all offseason. Almora has a career slash line of .271/.309/.398. Almora might be better used as a fourth outfielder or depth player.
Kevin Pillar is another solid centerfielder who could be signed to a one year contract. Pillar is 32 years old and is a very good defensive player who will also provide some offense. After spending the first six-plus years of his career with the Blue Jays, Pillar has been on three different teams in the last three seasons. Last year Pillar made 4.25 million dollars with the Colorado Rockies.
In 2019 Pillar had the best offensive season of his career. Pillar hit 21 home runs and drove in 87 runs while batting .259 with 14 stolen bases. For his career, Pillar has a slash line of .262/.299/.408 with 82 home runs and 344 RBI. If the Mets are worried about the 2022 payroll, then Pillar would be a very good player to sign to a one year deal.
Another name to look at is Delino DeShields. DeShields is a low-risk high reward player. Last year with the Cleveland Indians, DeShields made 1.875 million dollars and he is known for his speed. His career slash line is .246/,326/..340 but DeShields has stolen over 100 bases in six years. DeShields has four seasons of 20 steals or more including three straight years from 2017-2019.
The 28-year-old DeShields spent nine seasons in the minors where he had a slash line of .266/.362/.392 and had 273 stolen bases in 582 games. Any team that signs DeShields would be taking a chance that he can be the player he was in the minors.
One name that has been discussed in a potential trade for the Mets is Kevin Kiermaier of the Tampa Bay Rays. Kiermaier is a gold glove caliber centerfielder who is also not a big hitter. Kiermaier is signed through the 2022 season for a total of 23.5 million dollars with a club option for the 2023 season.
His career slash line is .248/.307/.413. In 729 games Kiermaier has hit 71 home runs. Kiermaier will be 31 years old when the season starts. The Rays have a great reputation when making trades which could make the Mets hesitant to acquire Kiermaier.
It may be a long shot to think the Mets could sign a left fielder instead of improving in centerfield, but Marcell Ozuna is an interesting name. Ozuna won’t come cheap, but he could be a dynamic offensive player. This also means that Smith does not have a position in 2021 unless the National League does an about-face on the designated hitter rule. The Mets had checked in on Ozuna when the offseason started.
Ozuna led the National League in home runs and RBI in 2020. Ozuna did sign a one year contract after the 2019 season in hopes of landing a lucrative deal this offseason. So Ozuna won’t come cheap both in years and dollars but he would be a major presence in the lineup.
Joc Pederson is another name to consider. Pederson can play all three outfield positions and it appears a return to the Los Angeles Dodgers is not in his future. Pederson has shown good power with the Dodgers. He has hit 130 career home runs in 748 games. But his career batting average is .230.
Last year Pederson made 7.750 million dollars and will be 29 years old when the 2021 season begins. Pederson has 350 career starts in center field but only 34 since the 2018 season. Pederson hits from the left side of the plate which would not be ideal for the Mets. The Mets are looking for outfield depth and Pederson’s versatility at all three outfield positions makes him a good option.
One of the questions about Steve Cohen has been answered. The Mets are operating with a budget. Cohen had said in his first press conference that the Mets are not going to spend like drunken sailors much to the dismay of Met fans who were expecting a huge spending spree this offseason. This is a very tough pill for the Met fans to swallow. The 2022 season will be a very expensive season for the Mets.
Michael Conforto and Francisco Lindor will need to have their contracts extended. This could cost the Mets at least 50 million dollars a year. Robinson Cano’s 20 million dollars come back on the books. Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman also will become free agents. In addition, Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil begin their arbitration years. Met fans expect Cohen to just blow past the luxury tax threshold. It’s very easy to spend someone else’s money.
A lot has been said on what Cohen and the Mets were looking to do this offseason. With one big name left on the market it is still possible for the Mets to spend past the luxury tax threshold. It has been impossible to predict just what the Mets are doing. Every free agent has been linked to the Mets at some point during this offseason. Now with Springer off the market, the Mets are looking at second-tier players or worse to fill the hole in center field. With Spring Training coming up soon the Mets will have to figure out who is going to play center. There is sure to be a lot of debate once that decision is made.
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