While the team is more than welcome to render this post obsolete by making another big league signing, all indications point to the Mets being largely finished with major acquisitions. Though they entered the offseason with an organization dangerously thin in the outfield, their flurry of transactions over the past few months gives them a number of players that will be seeing or competing for time there.
Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto are two of the brightest young stars on the Mets and they both had strong finishes to their 2018 seasons while staying generally healthy. Both have experience in center field, but are much stronger in the corners, so it will be interesting to see how health and competition for the remaining roster spots dictate their positions.
The Question Marks in Center
Juan Lagares is the ostensible starting center-fielder currently, but while he appeared to be healthy in a brief Winter Ball stint, there’s only so much faith you can place in a player who has averaged 68 games played over the past three years, to say nothing of legitimate doubts that his excellent defense can accommodate a career 85 wRC+.
To back up the fragile Lagares, the Mets traded for Keon Broxton, a light-hitting 28 year old with a stellar defensive reputation that isn’t quite matched by defensive metrics. He’s probably moderately better at the plate than Lagares, but they both bat right-handed, complicating any scenario in which they share the starting role. He’s out of options and his trade price was not trivial, so he’s almost certainly going to be on the Opening Day roster. Who is actually in the Opening Day lineup, though, may come down to who has the better Spring Training (and who can stay healthy).
The Battle for the Fifth Outfielder
In the middle of a busy December, the Mets signed two veterans to minor league deals with invites to big league camp, Gregor Blanco and Rajai Davis. Both Blanco, a 35 year old lefty, and Davis, a 38 year old righty, are in the twilight years of largely mediocre careers that included time at all three outfield spots. A scenario in which either gets significant playing time is one in which several things have already gone very wrong, but for minor league depth, spot starts, and speedy bats off the bench, they fit the bill.
A potential third name added to this mix is Rymer Liriano, an outfielder who spent some time on top prospect lists back in 2013, but at age 27, has just 150 exceptionally poor major league at bats to his name. He’ll begin in the starting lineup in Syracuse for sure, but definitely qualifies as a “hey, you never know” candidate.
The Wild Cards in the Infield
One approach the Mets may take to constructing their 2019 roster, especially if their fifth outfielder candidates fall flat, is to treat one of their gaggle of infielders as an outfield backup. J.D. Davis, the team’s reclamation project out of Houston, is primarily a third baseman, but has seen a bit of action in the outfield. His lack of speed makes him a tough profile for more than a few scattered games there, though. Similarly, Dominic Smith might find that the outfield represents his only shot at breaking through in Queens given the bottleneck at first base, but he’s even more lead-footed than Davis.
Travis d’Arnaud has also been bandied about as a player who might take a shot in the outfield (though he’s never played a professional game there), but the real name to watch is Jeff McNeil. McNeil has spent just 112 innings in the outfield in the minors, but he’s the best athlete of this group and probably the best hitter as well. With no guarantee of a starting infield role, McNeil should see a lot of time out there this spring. If he can hack it, Lagares and Broxton offer multiple opportunities for late inning defensive switches and the Mets could reasonably have their top eight bats going every day.