New York Mets best options for a right hand hitting OF/ 1B
- Updated: January 2, 2016
If a grade could be given to the New York Mets 2015 off season, I guess it would vary based on one’s vested interest in rooting for the franchise. Outsiders (non- Mets fans) will continue to talk about the Mets projected starting staff, which of course features Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and- sometime in the second half of 2016- Zack Wheeler. The same fans look at the Mets as a 2016 contender solely off the fact that they just represented the National League in the World Series. Of course, with a respective league pennant in hand, it draws the attention of the other 14 teams in the league. Each of the other teams obviously has the goal of accomplishing a league pennant with the dream of a World Series Championship.
Fans of the Mets are, for the lack of a better word, disappointed. One of the biggest turning points in the Mets 2015 season was the acquisition of OF Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes carried the team in the month of August and without him, the Mets may not have won the NL East division on their way to the World Series. 2B Daniel Murphy was the reason the Mets went from a being part of the 2015 postseason to their fifth appearance in the Fall Classic. Murphy’s home runs in a postseason record six consecutive games, most importantly in game five in the NLDS against the Dodgers and games 1 and 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs, paced the offense during their best times. Of course, neither Cespedes or Murphy performed at their best in the World Series and their short comings were chronicled as the Mets dropped the Series to the Kansas City Royals.
Neither Cespedes or Murphy will return to the Mets, with the latter set to join the division rival Washington Nationals. While the Mets trade for Pittsburgh Pirates 2B Neil Walker and subsequent signing of free agent SS Asdrubal Cabrera solidified the middle infield, the thought that free agent OF Alejandro DeAza makes up for the loss of Cespedes is ludicrous. While DeAza may become an ideal platoon mate for CF Juan Lagares, the Mets still lack the power lost in eventual defection of the former Cuban defector.
Easily forgotten in the Mets run to the 2015 World Series was the ineptitude of the team’s offense prior to the addition of Cespedes. Mets fans remember the likes of John Mayberry Jr, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Darrell Ceciliani, Eric Campbell and others. Up until the acquisition of Cespedes, and the subsequent returns of 3B David Wright and C Travis d’Arnaud, the Mets were scoring fewer runs than any team in all of MLB. Fear is, the team will resort to being one of the most futile offensive teams. That, and the fact that the Mets have an average (at best) defensive team will add a lot of pressure to the starting pitching staff. Perhaps there is enough time to balance a team that should be expected to contend once again next season.
Looking at things from the perspective of a front office, the Mets can use a right handed bat that can play both the corner outfield spots and a little at first base. Projected to start at LF, RF and 1B are Michael Conforto, Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda, respectively. All of whom bat from the left side. Having a right handed bat to compliment them will allow for better balance in the lineup. The question is, how much of a potential impact bat would the Mets be willing to add? And additionally, will the Mets be willing to stretch a player who may have more experience in the OF than 1B and vice versa.
The most logical options include former Baltimore Orioles 1B/ OF Steve Pearce (.218, 15, 40 in 97 games in 2015) and former Cleveland Indians infielder/ OF Ryan Raburn (.301, 8, 29 in 82 games). Raburn has had an inconsistent career offensively, but has been more good than bad, hitting as many as 16 HR and driving in as many as 62 runs in a season. The soon to be 35 year old has played the majority of his games in the outfield with 145 games at 2B and 33 games at 3B. However, Raburn has only played 14 games at 1B. Pearce had a solid 2014 season, hitting .293, 21, 49 in 102 games. Pearce (33 next season) has also just about had a direct split between games played at 1B and in the corner OFs.
Thinking outside of the box, perhaps the Mets can gain the benefit of a player on the bounce back. Former Rockies C Wilin Rosario is the prime candidate for a change of scenery. 2015 was the first full season where Rosario has just about completely removed from being a catcher. He was non tendered after struggling defensively as a 1B and making $2.8 million last season. He will be 27 next season and hit 49 HR in his first two MLB seasons. The only issue for the Mets is how much of a chance they would be taking on him by trying him in the OF. This is a team that, remember, once tried Murphy and Duda in the OF before figuring out they should not do that. Could the same be true for Rosario? And what happens if Rosario cannot help out defensively in the OF or at 1B? What do you do with him? If he hits, the Mets will find a way to get him at bats.
The next player I would briefly consider is former Royals OF Alex Rios. I wouldn’t briefly consider him because he has never played a game at 1B before, but more because of his drop in power the past two seasons. Rios hit just .255, 4, 32 in 105 games for Kansas City last season. In 2014 with the Texas Rangers, Rios hit .280, 4, 54 in 131 games. While the thought of him playing 1B is not that far fetched, this was a player who averaged 15-20 HR a season. It looks like those days are behind him.
Prior to the 2013 season, the Mets signed veteran OF Marlon Byrd to minor league contact. He responded by hitting .291, 24, 88 for the Mets and Pirates. The Phillies signed him to a two year deal and after a .264, 25, 85 2014 he was dealt to the Reds and split 2015 between Cincinnati and the San Francisco Giants (.247, 23. 73). His presence in the Mets clubhouse was well documented during his time in NY. Though he has never played a game at 1B, it could be beneficial for the soon to be 39 year old.
The final player I would consider if I was the Mets is former Astros 1B Chris Carter. Carter has hit 90 HR over the past three seasons but is coming off a disappointing 2015 campaign (.199, 24, 64). He has played his share of games in the OF and is primarily a 1B, but the issue with him is the fact that he made over $4 million last season and did not have a season to support his salary. Similar to Rosario, it led to him being non tendered.
Byrd, Carter or Rosario could all change the complexion of the Mets offense. For a team that plans to use some platooning, having an additional force coming off bench only increases the possibilities for manager Terry Collins. Of course, there are questions over whether or not Byrd can play 1B and certainly over whether Rosario can play either at 1B or the OF. And Carter had his best season (2014- .227, 37, 88) while serving as a primary DH. Odds are, the Mets would have to pay any of the three a little more than a player like Pearce or Raburn would command.