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It's not too late to improve the Mets outfield

Though it may take some creativity to do it.

Ronald Martinez

About two weeks ago I pulled together a last minute shopping list for teams, like the Mets, looking to improve their rosters in the waning days of spring training. The list was made up of players who were all deemed Out of Options, i.e. their respective clubs could not outright them to the minor leagues without sending them through waivers, making them highly available trade targets.

I am looking back at the results of the Out of Options shopping spree, and the whereabouts of the players in question, in hopes that bargain season isn't over yet. The early season roster crunch (with which the Mets are currently quite familiar) afflicts many teams, extending the period during which players might get bumped from a roster.

First, let's look at the list of players I tagged as Out of Options targets coming into Opening Day:

Player Team Outcome
Brett Hayes
Cleared waivers, outrighted to Triple-A
Carlos Rivero
Cleared waivers, outrighted to Triple-A
Brandon Hicks
Cleared waivers, outrighted to Triple-A
Ezequiel Carrera
Traded from Cleveland to Philly
Julio Borbon
Made the O.D. roster, subsequently DFA'd
Casper Wells
Blue Jays
Claimed on waivers by Toronto
Gorkys Hernandez
Cleared waivers, outrighted to Triple-A
Clayton Mortenson
Red Sox
Made the Opening Day roster
Guillermo Moscoso
Claimed on waivers by Cubs, outrighted to Triple-A
Brad Mills
Claimed on waivers by Rangers, outrighted to Triple-A
Travis Blackley
Traded from Oakland to Houston
David Huff
Cleared waivers, outrighted to Triple-A

It appears pretty much all of the players above are spoken for. Or are they? Reports out of Texas last night indicated that the Rangers will designate Julio Borbon for assignment— meaning that they have ten days to trade, release, or pass the oft-injured center fielder through waivers. Rangers general manager Jon Daniels seems resigned to the former option:

"We had teams in Spring Training that checked on [Borbon], but we weren't in any rush. He's a big leaguer, we just don't have a spot for him at this time. But he belongs in the big leagues, it just depends on the interest and how other teams value him. We'd like to get a good return on him and find the right place for him."

Texas may still try to slip Borbon through waivers and stash him in Triple-A until a need arises. But according to Daniels: "We hope we don't get to that point for Julio's sake. He deserves the right to play at the big league level."

So it seems that Texas will be trading the former first round draft pick. The only question that remains is whether or not he makes sense for the Mets. Here's what I wrote about Borbon the first time around:

Julio Borbon is another speedy, lefty-swinging center fielder with a good pedigree. The '09 first round draft pick has always featured outstanding speed and a good bat, in that he hits for decent average and very rarely strikes out. The problem for Borbon has been his inability to stay on the field, which has dropped him behind guys like (Leonys) Martin and (Craig) Gentry in Texas.

Borbon is a career .283/.324/.358 hitter with seven homers and 40 stolen bases in 216 career games. At 27 years old, he's far from over the hill. Although he's struggled with injuries, Borbon has been a victim of circumstance more than anything else.

Specifically, he made it to the show by the end of his draft year in '09 and posted nearly 2 WAR the following year in 137 games. Injuries struck in 2011 when a hamstring set him back in mid-May and then a broken ankle (suffered during his rehab assignment) claimed the rest of his season. By 2012, the Rangers outfield was a very talented and very crowded place. A healthy Borbon was forced to defer to names like Hamilton, Cruz, Murphy, and Gentry and spend the season at Triple-A Round Rock— where he batted .304 with a .783 OPS in 126 games. Today, the Texas outfield situation is no less crowded. Like Jon Daniels said, there just isn't a spot for him.

But is he a fit for the Mets? Well, his talent fits. There's a compelling argument to be made that Borbon is a better all-around player than any outfielder Terry Collins is currently running out there. The argument goes like this: Borbon's 1.7 WAR in his rookie season surpasses anything any current Mets outfielder has ever done, excepting an over the hill Marlon Byrd. Additionally, Borbon brings an element of speed that the club certainly lacks, and all signs point to Borbon being a very strong defender in center (ten runs saved in 2010). To boot, he still has three relatively cheap, cost-controlled seasons left before he hits free agency.

But again, is he a fit? That's where some creativity on the part of Mets general manager Sandy Alderson is required, as this already happens to be a roster chock full of somewhat interesting outfielders, many of them left-handed.