With the Mets still on the hunt for an outfield, we received the following e-mail from Phil:
I can’t believe the Mets haven’t traded for Josh Willingham yet. After some injury issues he averaged .253/.350/.501 with 64 HRs the last two years. At worst, he’s slightly better defensively than Duda. I kept hearing the Twins would be looking for a #4 or 5 pitcher in return. Isn’t two years of Willingham worth a Dillon Gee? Or Familia + a mid-level arm? The Twins won 66 games last year so I doubt they’re too attached to a 33-year-old LF earning $14 mil through 2014. In Queens he’d ALMOST legitimize the Mets lineup. Should the Mets be as interested as I am?
First, I really like Willingham from the days he played in Florida. He’s not a spectacular player, just solid and consistent. Back in July, I even suggested that the Mets check in on Willingham. The problem there was they still had Jason Bay under contract.
Willingham turns 34 this February, and will be making $7m in 2013 and 2014. Despite his age concerns, he had a pretty solid 2012 season. Target Field isn’t exactly known for being homerun friendly, yet he managed to hit 21 HR at home (35 in total).
The problem as I see it is you’re still stuck with figuring out what to do with Lucas Duda. I think we saw enough to know that Duda is not a right fielder, the problem is, neither is Willingham. Willingham is a below average fielder and came up as a 3B with Florida. He was moved to LF for a few reasons, none of them were because he’d be a good outfielder. Including the minor leagues, Willingham has played RF 39 times.
Now, I want to be clear. I think he’s a better hitter than Duda. However, I am not sure how much of a drastic difference he can bring the Mets in 2013 and 2014 compared to Duda. I say this because I don’t think you can put Duda and Willingham in the same outfield.
When the Phillies acquired Revere from Minnesota CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury reported that the Phillies also tried to get Willingham in the deal but Minnesota wouldn’t make the move. So if a team desperate to win a championship in 2013 couldn’t get the right price for Willingham, what does that say about the Mets chances? That tells me that Minnesota isn’t looking to deal him right now.
The problem for the Mets with regards to the outfield is that next year’s free agent class is not too attractive. I like Hunter Pence, but is he the answer? I like Ellsbury, but he doesn’t solve the power needs in the lineup.
I’m not excited at all about the thought of possibly signing Scott Hairston to be an every day player. I think his numbers from last year prove he performed much better when he was not a starter. So if a free agent like Cody Ross is not brought to Citi Field, then I think the Mets need to look at 3 right fielders in the trade market.
Alex Rios – The right handed hitting White Sox outfielder is making $12.5m for the next two seasons with a 2015 team option. In 2012 he hit .304 with 25 HR, 91 RBI, and a .850 OPS. The problem with Rios is that he seems to go to the school of Mike Pelfrey when it comes to consistency. What I mean by that is, he has one very good year, followed by a stinker. 2012 good, 2011 stinker, 2010 good, 2009 stinker. He doesn’t play an amazing RF, but he plays an average RF.
Michael Cuddyer – Another right handed bat, Cuddyer is signed for $10.5m in 2013 and 2014. Cuddyer brings a little bit of versatility in the field. He’s by no means a good fielder, I’d say slightly below average. What he does do though is give the Mets an opportunity to play him at 1B on occasion or even at 2B or 3B if necessary. Cuddyer battled through injuries in the 2nd half of 2012. Most of his trouble stemmed from a strained oblique.
Justin Upton – I’ve been on the record more than a few time saying I am concerned that Upton’s offensive production is more a product of his friendly park than his own talent. His numbers since 2011 back me up. Or do they? 2011 was the first year that Upton’s name was seriously thrown out on the public trade market. 2011 was also the year the Arizona fans began to boo their starting RF. There have been claims that at times those boos turned into racial taunts – very inexcusable However, I doubt every night he got booed there was racial overtones involved. So his reaction by saying he “doesn’t care” what the fans think really concerns me when you talk about playing for the Mets.
For my money though, Upton is the best bet based on the market and availability of corner OFs. I think you’d pay a similar price for somebody like Rios based on Chicago’s season expectations, so why not bump the offer up a bit and go for the bigger reward? Perhaps a change of scenery and playing with a childhood friend can help Upton reach his potential? Offering something like Flores, Havens, Familia and even Den Dekker perhaps? I’m not sure if that gets it done? I will say one thing, if this were to happen (and I don’t think it will) you’ll see a drastic change of tone from a lot of Mets fans when talking about the future of this ball club.
Moving Forward – The Mets are stuck in the outfield right now. This is why you’re going to see stories about the Mets kicking the tires on somebody like Grady Sizemore. The corner OF spots were once thought to be an easy find, but if you look around both the Mets, Phillies and even the Yankees are stuck with little to no power in the corner. Figuring this out will be a truly big task for the Mets over the next year.
I’m not sure what the answer is right now, but I am pretty sure it’s not trading for Willingham which would give the Mets two poor fielding left fielders – with one of them forced to play RF.
Thanks for the e-mail Phil, and keep em coming!