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Finding free agent outfield help for the Mets, Part 3

Let’s look at some more outfielders on the free agent market.

San Francisco Giants v Atlanta Braves
Eddie Rosario
Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images

The Mets’ sights are still squarely set on starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but the team still has several clear needs heading into the 2024 season. And hey, it’s possible that the Mets don’t really intend to be competitive next year, especially if they don’t sign Yamamoto. But with things still pretty quiet around the team, let’s look at a few more outfielders who could help them next year and beyond.

We’ve covered eight outfielders thus far in the series, and of that group, only Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has signed a deal. Jung Hoo Lee hadn’t been mentioned in it yet, but he signed a six-year deal with the Giants. And the Mets’ activity in this department since the last installment has consisted of signing Trayce Thompson, who struggled in 2023 but fared much better in 2022, to a minor league deal.

Whit Merrifield: Set to turn 35 at the end of January, Merrifield was traded by the Royals to the Blue Jays in 2022 and spent the entirety of the 2023 season with Toronto. He hit .272/.318/.382 with 11 home runs and a 93 wRC+ in 592 plate appearances, and despite the league making it much, much easier to steal bases, he tallied 26. With two 40-stolen base seasons under his belt in previous years, 26 isn’t nothing but isn’t quite what you might expect given the track record. The last time Merrifield was above league average by wRC+ was 2020, and even at his very best, he hit moderately better than league average. He played nearly as many games in left field as he did at second base for the Blue Jays this year, and with a handful of appearances in right field, he has some positional versatility. He’d be more or less redundant with Jeff McNeil, albeit with more speed and a lower likelihood of being a great hitter.

Eddie Rosario: After hitting 119 home runs with the Twins from 2015 through 2020, Rosario played briefly in Cleveland in 2021 before he was traded to Atlanta. Despite making a great first impression by going on a tear in his first half-season with the Braves and have a monster postseason as the team won the World Series in 2021, Rosario has struggle when you look at the past three seasons as a whole. In 2022, he had a 62 wRC+, and he got just eight plate appearances in that postseason. This year, he finished with a 100 wRC+ and made just seven plate appearances in the playoffs. Since the beginning of the 2021 season, he has a 91 wRC+ in regular season play, and he’s hit a total of 40 home runs. He’s only entering his age-32 season, but it’s tough to see a significant bounce back here.

Harrison Bader: Acquired in a trade by the Yankees from the Cardinals in 2022, Bader wound up being dealt to the Reds this year. Considering the combination of good defense, speed, and solid production at the plate in St. Louis in 2020 and 2021, it’s not too hard to see what the Yankees were hoping to get from him—even if giving up Jordan Montgomery for him looks pretty foolish in hindsight. Over the last two seasons, he’s totaled 657 plate appearances, hit .241/.284/.352, stolen 37 bases, and been worth 2.5 fWAR—with 1.4 in 2022 and 1.0 in 2023. The decimals that we don’t see in FanGraphs’ presentation of WAR surely account for what would otherwise look like bad math.

Travis Jankowski: Speaking of defense-first outfielders who had stints in New York, this former Mets outfielder wound up being on the World Series-winning Rangers this year. He hit .263/.357/.332 with one home run, 19 stolen bases, a 95 wRC+, and 1.0 fWAR. It was his best single season by fWAR since 2018 and one of just two times that he finished with a positive fWAR over the past five years.