The New York Mets haven’t even seen a pitch yet this spring, but it’s not too early to notice how outfielder Chris Young has muddled things.
And, it goes beyond the $7.25 million they’ll pay this year for the player who hit .200 last season with 12 homers and 93 strikeouts. Young’s 162-game averages are .235 with 24 homers and 148 strikeouts, so the Mets aren’t exactly renting a light’s out slugger.
The Mets must play Young because of his contract, but doing so creates several obstacles and dilemmas for manager Terry Collins.
If Collins chooses Lagares to play center, it leaves him without a viable leadoff hitter. Lagares has the speed, but strikes out too much to be a top-of-the-order hitter, although he’s young and can improve.
Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada have been mentioned, but neither is a great choice. Murphy should hit lower in the order because he’s a gap hitter able to drive in runs. Tejada is coming off a bad year and doesn’t have a good on-base percentage either.
Chris Young can’t lead off because he strikes out too much. Granderson can’t do it either because he also strikes out a ton and must hit fourth anyway to protect David Wright.
But, if Collins chooses Eric Young to hit leadoff and presumably play center, it relegates Lagares to the bench. Or based on what Collins has been strongly suggesting lately, it’s more likely they send Lagares to the minors instead to get him more at-bats. Never mind all the runs he saved with his glove and his arm and the excitement he brought to the team when he finally took over in center.
So, in essence the Mets are paying $7.25 million for a player that would likely delay the development of Lagares for another season.
The Mets are also contemplating keeping both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda on the Opening Day roster, with the intent of giving the latter some time in left field. But, how often will he play if Chris Young is here? And does Keeping both now squeeze out another young player in Wilmer Flores?
The Mets say they are building for the future, but Chris Young doesn’t contribute to that aim because he’s gone after this season. Either he doesn’t produce and they won’t bring him back, or he’ll hit and go elsewhere because the Mets won’t want to pay what he’s asking.
So, if the Mets’ timetable isn’t to win this year, why pay all that money for a rental?