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Demolition Man, Part IV - The Outfield

NostraDennisFriday, October 31, 2008
By NostraDennis

In many ways, the Mets' outfield is the part of their team with the most question marks. Despite the string of injuries suffered by Mets outfielders, though, it's the place where they're most likely to stand pat this winter. Fernando Tatis, the NL Comeback Player of the Year, just re-upped for 2009. If Ryan Church reaches agreement with the team, the bulk of their 2008 outfield will be under contract next year, including Endy Chavez, Dan Murphy, Nick Evans and of course, Carlos Beltran. This doesn't count Moises Alou, of course; let's hope he takes his gold watch and retires gracefully. Angel Pagan isn't on the already signed list, either; I believe he's fallen into a rip in the space-time continuum. We probably shouldn't count Murphy as an outfielder either, since he's currently in Arizona brushing up on his second base work. Still, the Mets should have plenty of options from both sides of the plate to throw out there without fishing for more outfielders elsewhere.

If the Mets do dip into the free agent market for an outfielder, put away those Pat Burrell fantasies. While it would be nice not to see Pat the Bat in the other dugout for a change, he did only hit .197 against the Mets this year, with only one home run. He's never hit for average, and has more strikeouts than hits in his career. At the salary he'd be seeking, the Mets would be wise not to jump into that sweepstakes.

It's interesting to see how many former Mets are free agents this winter. In the outfield, Cliff Floyd, Jay Payton, and Mike Cameron are all available, but none looks particularly attractive. Rocco Baldelli of the Rays is a free agent; thanks to starting the season on the disabled list, the Rays declined his '09 option. But he wants to stay put in Tampa, especially now that they've shaken off their perennial loser tag. Manny Ramirez? He can keep being Manny, in someone else's clubhouse. Ken Griffey Jr.? No thanks. Milton Bradley? Good hitter, good fielder, but lots of off-the-field baggage. Adam Dunn? Shades of Dave Kingman - great long-ball power, but way too many strikeouts. Any team considering Dunn might just as well sign Barry Bonds for a year.

My dark horse outfielder in the free agent market is the Brewers' Gabe Kapler, who hit .300 in a platoon role this year. He's another righty bat who can be had at a reasonable price (he made less than a million dollars on '08). While Kapler is admittedly a below-average fielder, the Mets could use him both as a pinch-hitter and occasional spot starter, before he'd give way to Endy in the late innings. He also has the reputation of a good clubhouse presence, an "anything for the team" attitude, and that value can't be measured in a box score.

Speaking of Chavez, the website www.fangraphs.com has proclaimed him the best defensive outfielder alive today. According to their calculations, he's 20 plays per season better than the average corner outfielder, and he's doing that on a part-time basis. This means he's made an average of 20 plays per season that the average outfielder wouldn't have made. The Catch wasn't just a one-time thing. It was a microcosm of what Endy brings to the team.

Overall, the outfield is the least of the Mets' worries. The closer, starter, and second base holes are far too gaping in comparison.

Side note - When the Mets first got Ambiorix Burgos, I could see him as a future Mets closer. After his release from prison in the Dominican Republic this week, and orders not to leave the country until a court date is set for multiple vehicular homicide charges, the only place I see him is as a future ex-Met. The sooner the better.

About Dennis McCarthy: I was born in the Bronx in 1960, but moved to Long Island four years later. I became a Mets fan in '69, thanks to my Aunt Ellen, who still lived in the Bronx.   Read More -->

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