The Mets Center Field Dilemma

jay bruce

The Mets acquisition of Jay Bruce was designed to solve the Mets’ offensive woes, and more importantly, their difficulty with hitting with runners in scoring position. However, the move coupled with Yoenis Cespedes‘ injury, only exacerbates the team’s center field problem.

As Barry Bloom reports for MLB.com, Sandy Alderson admits it’s not an ideal situation. “As people will comment, it’s not an absolute perfect fit for us. You start with the need for offense and go from there.”

The Mets are unsure what Cespedes is capable of doing after a game where he said he can no longer go “full speed” anymore without experiencing pain. There is real fear amongst the Mets Terry Collins said,

“To be honest, he could go out there. Could he aggravate it?  Maybe. And if he aggravates it more, we’re looking at three or four weeks. I’m not going to do that.”

Fortunately, the Mets will be able to use Cespedes at DH for the next five games with the Yankees playing two in the Bronx followed by a three game set in Detroit. After an off day Monday, it’s still unclear what the Mets can get out of Cespedes, or what the regular outfield alignment will be.

This is a Mets roster without a true center field option. Juan Lagares had thumb surgery and will be out for at least six weeks. Imported replacement Justin Ruggiano just landed on the disabled list with a hamstring issue. Michael Conforto has only played five games there, and Collins doesn’t appear to be eager to let him start against left-handed pitching.

With these injuries, Terry Collins admits, “We’re asking now for three guys to play a position they’re not comfortable playing.”

curtis granderson catch 2

Curtis Granderson has more center field experience than anyone on the roster, but he hadn’t played there regularly since 2012. For what it’s worth, Collins doesn’t appear eager to play Granderson in center either as he believes it “is going to tax him a lot.”

Given Collins’ reluctance to play Granderson or Conforto in center, and his other options being injured, he had gone so far as inquiring about newly acquired Met Jay Bruce‘s willingness to play center.

“Collins asked me if I played any center and I told him that I had. But it sounds like the plan is for me to play a lot of right field. I told him I’d be more than willing and happy to play anywhere he needed me. I don’t think there’s a clear cut center fielder on the team. I’m ready for wherever he puts me. I’m ready for anything.”

Despite the temptation, Collins still intends to keep Bruce where he’s played all season.

“I’m going to play him in right field for now. I’m scheduled to talk to Grandy in a little while about moving him in the outfield situation. Bruce told me he hasn’t played center field since 2008, so that’s quite a while.”

Just like Bruce, Granderson has taken a team-first stance on the issue. “Wherever they put me at – Catch, short, pitch, outfield – I’ll play all of them.”  (Wall Street Journal)

The best bet for now might just be Alejandro De Aza who has been the team’s best hitter since July 1st. With yesterday’s performance, he is hitting .342/.500/.553 with two doubles, two homers, and four RBI in that stretch. Each and every game he hits, it becomes harder and harder for the Mets to sit him. It should also be noted that before Cespedes was re-signed, he was brought in by the Mets to be the long side of a platoon with Lagares in center.

Overall, like it did when he joined the Mets a year ago, everything revolves around Cespedes.

“A lot of this is about Cespedes’ availability. We’re still trying to figure out what path to take as we get down the road a little bit. Health is going to be a big thing for them all.”

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About John Sheridan 738 Articles
John was raised to be a Mets fan by birth, and now he is raising a Mets fan of his own. He also uses Sabermetrics to either confirm the proverbial eye test or to see if we're seeing things with Mets colored glasses. He looks forward to bringing this perspective to MMO. His work, including the tales of raising his son a Mets fan, can also be seen at MetsDaddy.com.