Free agency begins today, and the Mets could obviously use a corner outfielder heading into the 2015 season. Of course, the team might not have much, if any, money available to sign free agents this winter, which would make discussing their options on the free agent market a moot discussion, but let’s discuss them anyways.
While the Mets’ future at shortstop has rightfully garnered plenty of attention, left field was a bigger problem in 2014. Mets left fielders had just a .615 OPS this year. The major league average for the position was a .724 OPS. And if Curtis Granderson and his arm move to left field starting next season, the major league average in right field was a .735 OPS this year. Based on the available outfielders this winter, we have created a custom leaderboard over at Fangraphs that includes only those players.
With the qualifying offer deadline now in the past, it’s safe to say the Mets are very unlikely to pursue Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, or Michael Cuddyer, as all three received qualifying offers from their respective teams. Before that news, Cuddyer seemed like the best fit for the Mets’ financial reality; he would presumably take fewer years and less money per year to sign than most of the other outfielders on the market. But with the Mets’ first pick in the amateur draft next year set at 15th overall—and not protected—this trio is presumably out. In the unlikely event that the Mets do sign one of them, all three have been above-average hitters over the past few years, and the defensive metrics rate them all poorly in the outfield.
That leaves a few potential targets on the market, though Marc Carig of Newsday reports that the Mets are not high on any of this group. Norichika Aoki spent the season with the American League champion Royals after spending his first two in Major League Baseball with the Brewers, and he has been a slightly above average hitter in his time in the league thanks to a strong on-base percentage. Of course, even that would present a major upgrade for the Mets at the plate in a corner spot.
Colby Rasmus had his best season since 2010 in 2013 as he posted a 129 wRC+, but he wasn’t nearly that good a hitter in 2014. For his career, he has a 103 wRC+, which would still present a significant upgrade for the Mets. He’s capable of hitting home runs, strikes out a ton, and has played almost exclusively in center field. And he only turned 28 in August, which means he should be right in his prime.
Alex Rios had a very good season in 2012, but he saw his production drop in 2013 and again in 2014. He has also shown the ability to hit home runs, but he hit just four this year despite playing his home games in Arlington. Rios has been a fairly prolific baserunner, too, but he’ll turn 34 before spring training, which makes the dropoff in his production at the plate all the more concerning.
That leaves two potential everyday players out there for the Mets: Torii Hunter, who might retire if he does not return to Detroit, and Yasmany Tomas, the Cuban defector who has gotten plenty of attention over recent weeks but will almost certainly get more money elsewhere whenever he signs. That’s not to say the Mets should not take a risk on the player, as he could very well be the best fit available for the team.