It’s no secret the Mets need outfielders. Not having a real center fielder is a glaringly obvious problem, but the Mets really haven’t had any depth outfielders to speak of for what feels like several seasons now, necessitating moves like trading for Billy Hamilton midseason or signing Juan Lagares for all of one game. Thankfully, a bunch of useful major league options were just non-tendered. Here are the ones that would best fit the Mets:
Center field starters
There’s one very obvious name that makes sense for the Mets among the non-tendered outfielders and that’s David Dahl. A 2019 All-Star, Dahl had a horrific 2020 while he battled through a shoulder injury, posting a paltry 10 wRC+. Throughout the rest of his career, he’s been closer to a a hundred points better offensively, however, posting solid numbers across the board with a little pop and an occasional steal. Package that with average defense in center field and you have a player that could fill the Mets’ biggest hole on the roster.
Dahl isn’t perfect of course. He’s been one of the most oft-injured players in baseball throughout his career, battling a whole list of ailments: torn hamstring, lacerated spleen, stress reaction in his rib cage, broken foot, high ankle sprain, right shoulder strain. There’s an argument that we overestimate the importance of unrelated and often unlucky injuries for predicting future position player injuries—see Travis d’Arnaud as an example—but that’s just a theory and Dahl might be a special case anyway.
Currently, the Mets seem to be in hot pursuit of George Springer to fill their hole in center field. Any way you slice it, that’d be a superior addition to Dahl, who comes with much more risk due to his injury history and isn’t as good as Springer when healthy. Had the offseason developed differently—if JT Realmuto had been made the biggest free agent priority, for instance—Dahl would’ve been a near perfect fit. As is, he’d be a decent consolation prize if Springer goes elsewhere, ignoring the larger implications for the roster, or could be a very nice addition as a fourth outfielder off the bench. More likely he gets a chance to start somewhere, and the Mets will have to look elsewhere for a reserve outfielder.
Good but don’t fit
Eddie Rosario and Kyle Schwarber share a lot of similarities. Both bat left-handed and play left field, both hit more than 30 home runs in 2019, and both were non-tendered last week in decisions that really didn’t make much sense. Rosario has posted consistently above average offense for the past decade in Minnesota and was particularly effective in 2020 (127 DRC+). Combine that with solid corner outfield defense and you have a 2-2.5 win player. Schwarber fits a similar mold, providing a bit more offense and a bit less defense. If the Mets were in need of a left-handed, corner outfield bat either would be an excellent pickup. With the roster as it currently stands, neither Rosario or Schwarber makes much sense.
A bevvy of potential reserve center fielders were non-tendered as well. The most intriguing name is probably Albert Almora Jr., a former top prospect for the Cubs who really never learned to hit over four years in Chicago. His defense is solid and he hits lefties well, which could make him a useful platoon partner for someone like Dahl or simply as a foil to the Mets’ other left handed outfielders, but he doesn’t bring much else to the table in terms of speed or power.
Two other players in the same vein are Delino Deshields and Brian Goodwin. Deshields is another solid defender—Statcast’s OAA thinks he’s elite—who bats right-handed and is one of the few real base stealing threats left in the majors. That’s basically a better version of Almora depsite less name recognition. Goodwin is a very different type of player, with mediocre defense but a slightly better bat. If you prefer pop and offense off the bench, Goodwin might be more your style, though his left-handedness is a drawback.
In terms of corner outfield reserves, Adam Duvall would be an appealing source of right-handed pop off the bench. He excelled over the past two seasons in Atlanta, mashing lefties and holding his own against righties while playing adequate defense in an outfield corner. Similar to Schwarber and Rosario above, he can probably find a starting job somewhere. Still, the Mets should be interested in adding him as a potential lefty-masher if a bigger opportunity doesn’t materialize elsewhere.
A final interesting player is Erick Mejia. He doesn’t have the track record of any of these previous names, but he does have a very interesting defensive skill set, having appeared at third, short, second, and all three outfield spots for the Royals over the past two seasons. He might not actually be good, but he’s young-ish at 26 and still has options remaining and could be a fun utility knife with speed off the bench if things click. That’s a worthwhile gamble to take on a player who is basically free.
The last handful of non-tenders that the Mets shouldn’t spend too much time considering:
- Bubba Starling: former top prospect for the Royals but has never hit despite incredible athletic gifts
- Tyler Naquin: Look, if the Indians don’t want you in their outfield, that should tell you something.
- Nomar Mazara: corner-only left handed bat who has never posted an above-average offensive season despite big billing as a prospect
- Ben Gamel: has some potential utility as a reserve, but doesn’t fit the Mets’ roster well as a left-handed corner bat