Paying for Wilson Ramos with money instead of paying for J.T. Realmuto with Brandon Nimmo has prevented a potentially serious mistake on the part of the Mets, but they are still facing a pretty serious problem with outfield depth: they don’t have any.
The Mets 40-man roster has just four outfielders listed, one of whom - Yoenis Cespedes - will be out until the All-Star Break if not longer and another of whom - Juan Lagares - hasn’t cracked 100 games since 2015. Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto are two bright young outfield stars, but it’s easy to forget that Conforto is less than 18 months removed from a potentially career-ending shoulder surgery and Nimmo was notoriously injury-prone until just recently.
Looking to who is waiting in the wings in the minor leagues is no comfort either. Desmond Lindsay is their only outfield prospect of note, but he is still two years removed from a likely debut and has injury issues of his own to contend with. Other former minor league fixtures such as Matt den Dekker and Wuilmer Beccera are now minor league free agents and their ability to help any team at the major league level is in serious doubt.
Of course, there’s always Tim Tebow. The walking Mets joke managed to show slight improvements while climbing all the way to Double-A before being taken out for the year by a broken hand in July. But make no mistake, the 30 year old ex football star sitting on a career .686 OPS in the minor leagues is not viable outfield depth. If Tim Tebow appears in a Mets uniform for anything other than a pat on the back in September, it’s because something went terribly wrong and the team is battling for a high draft pick. He’s not a plan B, he’s a plan W.
Thoughts of trying out other young players in the outfield, such as Dominic Smith or Jeff McNeil, are reasonable, but these should be emergency backups at best until they have taken sufficient reps to prove that they are not Daniel Murphy 2.0 out there. This is built to be a win-now team and that means no more experiments at the major league level.
Realistically, assuming there are no further trades to be made that would involve either Conforto or Nimmo, the Mets should be going out and signing two outfielders, one worthy of a starting role and another as a fifth outfielder, slotting Lagares into fourth. A.J. Pollock or Michael Brantley would meet the standard of the starting role, Adam Jones or Robbie Grossman, not so much. Bryce Harper would really meet the standard of the starting role, but there’s no indication the team is willing to take that leap.
The Mets have been burned by a lack of depth countless times, but rarely has the shortcomings of the roster been so blatantly clear at this stage. They are quite literally one Spring Training oblique strain away from a two-man outfield and after mortgaging the future to bolster the 2019 lineup, it would be a big mistake not to invest in this paper-thin roster.