Earlier today, I took a look at what non-tendered catchers might make sense for the Mets to acquire via free agency this winter. Such free agents are generally available for much less of a commitment — in both years and dollars — than the big-name options on the market, all of whom are too expensive for the Mets right now.
The Mets certainly have a need at catcher, but their biggest need heading into 2013 is in the outfield. Given the current 40-man roster, the likely Opening Day outfield would consist of Lucas Duda in left, Kirk Nieuwenhuis in center, and Mike Baxter in right. Beyond that trio, Jordany Valdespin would probably serve as the team's fourth outfielder. While each of those players could have a role on the team, the Mets should be looking for at least two everyday outfielders and a platoon partner for either Baxter or Nieunwehuis in one of the corners. If they can find three everyday outfielders, great.
Joining the free-agent pool this morning via non-tender were the following outfielders: Ben Francisco, Derrick Robinson, Nate Schierholtz, Ryan Sweeney, and Andres Torres.
Robinson has been in the Royals' minor league system for a while but hasn't hit much. Sweeney's a left-handed hitter with a significant platoon split, a type of player the Mets are not currently lacking. Let's have a look at the other three players.
The former Phillie, who turned 31 in October, began the year in Philadelphia but also spent time with the Astros and Rays. He struggled throughout, though, and hit posted just a .291 wOBA. For the sake of comparison, all of his numbers as a hitter this year were still significantly better than those of Jason Bay.
Francisco's production at the plate has been on the decline each year since his .341 wOBA in 2009. For that reason, he should be available for relatively little. Francisco hits from the right side, which is something that the Mets need more of in general, but he doesn't have any significant splits. His hitting stats are nearly identical against both left- and right-handed pitching.
Over the course of his career, DRS and UZR/150 rate him somewhere between below-average and average in either one of the corner outfield spots.
The left-handed hitting Schierholtz debuted with the Giants in 2007 and continued to play in San Francisco until he was sent to Philadelphia as part of the deal that netted the Giants Hunter Pence. He's not a great hitter by any means; his career triple-slash line of .270/.319/.409 is a touch below league average.
On the upside, Schierholtz doesn't really have a platoon split and hits lefties just about as well as he hits righties. And both DRS and UZR/150 rate his defense in right field as slightly above average, which is more than the Mets could say about Lucas Duda's defense in the same position in 2012.
The Mets got to know Torres fairly well this year, and he was a big disappointment. Perhaps it was unreasonable to expect him to return to his 2009-10 level of production with the Giants, but it looked possible that his light-hitting 2011 campaign was a fluke rather than a decline. Despite a .297 wOBA, though, Torres still provided enough value in other aspects of the game — defense and baserunning, specifically — to make himself better than a replacement-level player. His 1.7 fWAR and 1.2 rWAR weren't spectacular, but they're probably higher than most Mets fans would have guessed.
I didn't include Torres with Mike Pelfrey and Manny Acosta as players the Mets non-tendered but should try to bring back when I wrote about it yesterday, but he'd make for a decent fourth outfielder if he's willing to come back on a very inexpensive deal. He'll be playing his age-35 season next year and probably won't be as good as Endy Chavez was for the Mets, but perhaps he could fill a similar role.