The Mets are not expected to sign a free agent outfielder who would push Juan Lagares into a bench role. The team is instead looking for a player who is "capable of manning center field who can complement Lagares." This report comes after a recent rumor suggested the Mets could have interest in Denard Span, Dexter Fowler, or Gerardo Parra, all of whom would likely compete with Lagares for significant playing time.
Lagares and the Mets agreed to an extension last season that guarantees the 26-year-old outfielder $2.5 million in 2016, $4.5 million in 2017, $6.5 million in 2018, and $9 million in 2019. Given that financial commitment, it's understandable that the Mets would be hesitant to curtail Lagares's playing time, but it's also fair to wonder whether Lagares can ever be the player he was in 2014.
The right-handed hitter played in 143 games in 2015 and hit just .259/.289/.358. Perhaps more concerning was the fact that his defensive game noticeably declined this past season, as his UZR/150 dropped from 25.3 to 3.9. The Mets are hoping for a return to form for the former Gold Glove winner, who hit .281/.321/.382 in 2014.
For his career, Lagares has hit .254/.286/.340 against right-handed pitching while hitting .279/.325/.427 against left-handed pitchers. If he is unable to improve against righties, it would make sense that he would be a platoon player.