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Getting to know Mets outfielder Mark Canha

The longtime Oakland Athletic comes with some very positive upside but also some considerable risks.

Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The Mets had a very busy Black Friday. They did their shopping later in the day, and got some good deals on free agents. One of the players they signed was former outfielder for the Oakland Athletics, Mark Canha. Canha signed a two year, $26.5 million contract with an option for a third year.

Mets fans would be forgiven if they didn’t know much about Mark Canha. Canha spent the last six years in Oakland, and the only time the Mets played Oakland during that time frame was 2017, a season during which Canha was largely playing on Oakland’s Triple-A team. But Canha is a versatile outfielder who can play all three outfield positions, along with first base. He consistently runs a high on-base percentage and has some power to go with it.

Canha started his professional career when he was selected in the seventh round of the 2010 MLB draft by the then-Florida Marlins. He spent the next four years rising through the Marlins system, consistently running a high on-base percentage and never having a wRC+ below 128 after his six games on the Marlins Rookie league team.

In 2015, Canha was left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft and was selected by the Colorado Rockies. He was not long for the Rockies organization, however, as he was quickly traded to the Oakland A’s. The A’s needed some more offensive production after losing some of their big names players the year before (Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Céspedes among them), and thus Mark Canha appeared slotted into the A’s lineup as soon as they got him.

And he really came through for the A’s.In his rookie season, Canha hit .254/.315/.426, slugging 16 home runs and walking 33 times (a career low for Canha for a full season), good for a 105 wRC+ and 1.3 fWAR. He also played four different positions on the field for the A’s, in addition to pinch-hitting and being a designated hitter. He was one of the A’s best players in his first season, one of the bright spots on a team that lost almost 100 games.

In 2016, Canha only appeared in 16 games before undergoing hip surgery, which ended his season before it really began. 2017 was a rocky year for Canha, who was with the major league for 6 games before being optioned to Oaklands Triple-A team in Nashville. He played 57 games total for Oakland in 2017, batting a meager .208/.262/.382, hitting just five home runs and drawing only seven walks, adding up to a 71 wRC+ and -0.6 fWAR. After the 2017 season Canha underwent surgery on his right wrist to remove a cyst.

In 2018, Canha came back with a vengeance. In 122 games, Canha hit .249/.328/.449, with 17 home runs and 34 walks. He had a 115 wRC+ and was worth 2.1 fWAR. His 17 home runs was a career high to that point. His 2019 season, however, far eclipsed any of his career statistics to that point.

In 2019 Canha batted .273/.396/.517 in 126 games, slugging his current career high 26 home runs, and walking an incredible 67 times. He had a 146 wRC+ and was worth a whopping 4.0 fWAR. He was one of the very best players the A’s had, helping propel the A’s to almost 100 wins and a Wild Card spot (they ended up losing to the Rays in the Wild Card game).

In the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Canha wasn’t quite as good as he was the previous year but he still impressed. Canha hit .246/.387/.408 with 37 walks and only five home runs. He had a 127 wRC+ and was worth 1.7 fWAR while playing 59 games of the 60 game season. He helped propel the team to the American League Division series where they lost to the Houston Astros.

In 2021, Canha was in his final year before free agency, and he got off to a rollicking start. In the first half, Canha hit .255/.375/.450 with 11 home runs and 40 walks. But he fell off in the second half, dealing with a hip issue. In the second half Canha hit only .206/.340/.319 with only six home runs but still drawing an impressive 37 walks. Overall, Canha had a 115 wRC+ and was worth 2.6 fWAR. Still a good end result but definitely buoyed by a better first half. In the end Canha hit free agency without the A’s even offering him a qualifying offer.

So the Mets got a good hitter, with fielding versatility (although he probably won’t see much time in center field with Starling Marie also under contract) and a fantastic skill at getting on base. He’s not a dissimilar player to Brandon Nimmo, who is in his final year before free agency. Although another similarity to Nimmo is his propensity to injury. The only time in Canha’s career he played north of 130 games was last year (not including the shortened 2020 season) and even then he dealt with issues. And as a player who is on the wrong side of 30, his injury issues are likely to increase. Now, if the Mets can sign a good fourth outfielder, or use someone like Jeff McNeil to give both Canha and Nimmo enough rest to manage their injury issues, they should be in a good position to succeed.

One final fun fact about Mark Canha, completely removed from his baseball ability: the guy is a serious foodie. His Instagram page is entirely devoted to his love of food of all types. Just a glimpse at his page is enough to get one’s mouth watering. One has to imagine his page will be just as active in New York, where anyone could be overwhelmed with the variety and abundance of delicious food around every corner.

The Mets signing of Mark Canha fills the void in right field left by Michael Conforto and replaces the meager production of the outfield last season with a player who has been consistently above-average. His injury issues and age are of some concern, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to manage that with semi-frequent rest. The only question is whether the Mets fourth outfield option will be good enough to make sure that happens.