From Left Field: Is Scott Hairston The Answer For A Corner Outfield Spot?
It was great to see Scott Hairston hit a home run yesterday to reach the 20-home run plateau in a Mets victory on the final day of the season.
Hairston was a consistent performer this season as he set a new career-high in games played with 134.
He hit extremely well against left-handed pitching so he earned time as a platoon player, but based on the Mets lackluster offense, Hairston found himself in the lineup often regardless of the opposing pitcher.
As the Mets begin their search for outfield help, where does Hairston fit in the mix?
Yes, he had a nice season, but he’s really not an everyday player at this point in his career. He will be 33 next May, and his .239/.281/.457 line against right-handers in 188 at-bats isn’t too impressive.
He would definitely be a cheap option, since it seems the Mets won’t be pursuing B.J. Upton, Michael Bourn or Shane Victorino (who would even want Victorino anyway?).
But he’s not an everyday center fielder, which is really what the Mets needs.
Here’s a scenario to consider. The problem is Jason Bay will be on this team Opening Day and will be given every chance to succeed (or fail miserably). The team still appears to have hope for Lucas Duda as well.
It seems as though Bay and Duda will platoon in left field to start the season. If the Mets do decide to bring back Hairston as a platoon player, maybe a Hairston/Mike Baxter platoon in right field could work. Baxter isn’t exactly Roberto Clemente in right field, but he can be a decent complimentary player if given the chance. Before he made that stellar catch in Johan Santana’s no-hitter, he was hitting well and playing great defense.
Of course, having two platoons going on in the outfield with basically the same cast of characters may not be considered a he upgrade. But if everyone involved understands their roles and the Mets somehow bring in a good center fielder, maybe it all can work.
As of this moment, it looks like Andres Torres is long gone, leaving Kirk Nieuwenhuis as the only somewhat-MLB-ready candidate to take over in center. It’s looking like Jordany Valdespin will be looked at as solely an infielder from now on.
This team has so many needs and not enough funds to fill all those needs, so as Sandy Alderson has been saying, the team needs to be creative. Maybe they can pull off a trade with the Red Sox for Jacoby Ellsbury or (more of a long-shot) Justin Upton. But for now, we need to be thinking of cost-effective options that can get the job done.
Duda/Bay and Hairston/Baxter platoons are certainly not ideal, but if they can all settle into their platoon roles and the Mets bring in a new center fielder, maybe it can all work out.
Hairston may not be the sole solution to be an everyday corner outfielder, but he can be part of the overall solution, especially if the Mets can improve in other areas.
About the Author: Jim Mancari
Jim Mancari hails from Massapequa, N.Y. He recently earned a Master's degree in Journalism at Hofstra University. He is a devout Mets fan and takes pride in his team, despite their lack of success over the last few years. Like all Mets fans, Jim has plenty of hope. He also writes as the sports reporter for the Brooklyn Tablet newspaper and the senior editor of metroBASEBALL Magazine. Click my name to view my personal website.
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