When the New York Mets traded for Jay Bruce, it made a logjam in the outfield even worse. What makes matters worse is it’s a problem that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon. The Mets could have six MLB-caliber outfielders under contract next season, and it’s likely a problem they will need to solve before doing anything else this offseason.
So here’s a look at those six outfielders and what their future might hold for the Mets:
The Mets created a lot of these outfield problems when they traded for Bruce, and his poor play hasn’t made it even better. The most likely scenario is that Bruce will be the Mets’ starting right fielder in 2017, as he has talent and they traded a good piece in Dilson Herrera to get him. However, the Mets could also look to trade him. With only 13 million on the hook for next season, Bruce could be an attractive trade chip for another contender looking for a bat and would solve some outfield playing time issues for New York. They could still get a nice return for Bruce.
The most necessary offensive player to have on the roster in 2017 and beyond is also the least certain. Cespedes has a well-publicized opt-out clause after this season and can hit the open market. Just this past weekend’s seres with San Francisco shows how different the Mets are with him in the lineup, and the Mets will likely try to come to an agreement before other teams get start a bidding war. Even if the Mets get this done, his days of playing centerfield seem to be over.
The Michael Conforto question will likely be the toughest to answer in the offseason. It would be foolish to give up on a young hitter that just a season ago was a major offensive piece for the Mets. At the same time, it seems highly unlikely he’ll get regular playing time in any corner outfield spot. The Mets could trade him, but his value has never been lower. The Mets could also play him at centerfield or first base, but he has little experience at both positions. Also, if Lucas Duda is on the roster in 2017, he’s already a lefty. It’s just completely unclear what Conforto’s role will be in 2017, but playing everyday seems unlikely unless the Mets move a corner outfield bat.
There hasn’t been much good to say about Granderson’s 2016 season and with the veteran set to enter his age-36 season in 2017, the end of his career could be near. Considering he’s hit below .230 in three of his last four seasons, the Mets can’t really rely on him for 2017. The Mets should either use him as an expensive bench bat or try to unload his $15 million for next season on a team that has a bigger need for a veteran outfielder. Given his reputation and clubhouse presence, the Mets could likely find a taker for him in a trade if they aren’t expecting much in return.
In a perfect world, the Mets would just release Laggers or send him to Triple-A. Over the last two seasons, he’s hit .255/.292/.365 and has failed to play the defense the way he did when he won a Gold Glove in 2014. But alas, Lagares is the owner of the worst Mets contract that no one talks about, as he is due $20 million from 2017-2019. So the Mets can’t cut or demote him and no one will really want to trade for him unless New York eats a lot of money from that contract. Still, the Mets cannot continue to force at-bats for Lagares simply because of what they are paying him. There are too many better options.
It seems reasonable enough that Nimmo will start 2017 in Triple-A and be the first potential call-up to the major leagues if there is any outfield injury. However, his ability to play centerfield might help his cause to find a way on the major league roster. Still, it’s a cloudy long-term future for Nimmo in terms of having a role with the Mets, so just like his name was popular at the trade deadline, he’ll likely be involved in winter trade discussions.
This could go a number of ways (including trading for a true centerfielder), but the best guess here is that the Mets start 2017 with Cespedes in LF, Bruce in RF and Conforto given a chance to play everyday in CF with occasional starts at 1B. Lagares will likely be an expensive fourth outfielder, while the Mets should be able to find a home elsewhere for Granderson. Finally, Nimmo should start 2017 in Triple-A.