November 10, 2006

Off-Season Outpost 3: The Outfield

For a team that made it all the way to the NL Pennant-clinching game, the Mets have some definite holes on their team. We've discussed both starting pitching and second base in 2 prior articles, and today we'll discuss some of their outfield options.

There seem to be no shortage of solutions to fix the Mets' outfield problem; however, each one comes at a cost- either cash or a compromise (such as getting an older player or playing someone out of position). We know that Carlos Gomez has become what Lastings Milledge once was, the "can't miss" outfield prospect of the future. That future might come as early as 2008. However, in the meantime, we still have huge holes in both left and right, surrounding gold-glove winning, mvp-candidate Carlos Beltran. Therefore, we have to ask some key questions, including "Can Endy Chavez not only be re-signed but recreate his magic over a long season," "would Cliff Floyd come to Spring Training as an invitee without a contract,' and "will Milledge still be on the team come the spring or will he be a part of a potential trade for pitcher Dontrelle Willis?" We'll try to answer some of these questions, as best as we can, and offer some potential corner outfield replacements.

1.) Endy Chavez: Endy had a career year for the Mets last season, playing in his second highest number of games, and committing no errors with nine outfield assists. He hit .306, had 4 home runs (one from his personal best), 42 RBI’s and 12 stolen bases. He is the best option in the Mets system and may very well be the best defensive option out of everyone that the Mets may be considering. Endy immortalized himself with the catch he made in game seven of the NLCS agenst the Cardinals. That one catch might have locked him up in a Mets uniform for the next few years, if his agent and Omar can work something out. If we can get a power hitter for RF and trade Shawn Green at the same time, it makes total sense to bring Chavez back. If Omar decides to have Green return as a starter, we may want to look elsewhere, sadly.

2.) Carlos Lee: Lee is NOT going to come cheap, as he is the best all-around outfielder available via free agency this offseason (Soriano wants to be a second-baseman). The 30 year old Lee will probably look for somewhere in the range of 5 years, $80 million smackers. First of all, the Mets don't seem to be atop his wish-list, nor he theirs. It's rumored that he favors staying in Texas, either with the Rangers, the team that traded for him, or the Astros. Last season, he hit .300, had a career high in home runs (37), drove in 116 and had 19 stolen bases. He also boasted a .975 fielding percentage (6 errors). These are all very good numbers, but the Mets don’t need another power hitter at this point as much as they need starting pitching, and the money necessary to sign someone like Lee would be best spent in that area.

3.) Barry Bonds: Whereever this guy goes, controversy follows. Bad choice, bad choice and bad choice. With all the scandals and attitude problems this guy carries with him, he is just not a good choice for a club built upon a great clubhouse atmosphere. He only played in 116 games last season and has worse knees than Floyd does Achilles’ tendons. His joints just can’t seem to handle the load of a full season anymore, and anyone can speculate as to why this is... Bonds is more suited for a DH role than a starting left field role, and is just not an ideal fit for the Mets. With Jason Giambi scheduled to become a full-time DH, it doesn't look like Bonds will be playing in the "big apple" any time soon. One interesting option might be the Angels, who are in desperate need of another bopper in their line-up, and Bonds, now living in Beverly Hills, would have a very short commute.

4.) Moises Alou: At 40 years of age, Alou is still going strong. He hit .301, with 22 home runs and 74 RBI’s last season, in only 98 games, due to injuries. He would be a good solution for a year or two, but Alou is certainly not any kind of long-term fix. He has hit as high as .355 ('00), with 39 dingers ('04) and 124 RBI's ('98), but has only averaged 131 games this decade, and has a long history of injuries (he missed the entire 1999 season). We'd prefer the dependability that a younger outfielder brings, which is why we'd rather take a pass on Alou, unless it was for one year at a very reasonable salary. Perhaps the Cubs will come calling again.

5.) Reggie Sanders: It seemed for a number of years, wherever Sanders goes, so goes an appearance in the World Series. However, coming off of a partial season with Kansas City, far, far away from the land of the play-offs, and at 38 years of age, at best, Sanders would be a good bat off the bench or platoon player. He's not a free agent, so we'd have to give the Royals something in exchange for him, and the Mets won't part with anything valuable in such a deal. The Royals might want to divest themselves of his salary, in order to promote a younger player, but again, we'd only offer a low-level prospect or cash in return. We think he'll probably return to play with the Royals next season.

6.) Cliff Floyd: In a perfect world, Floyd would be back with the Mets this season, and be able to retire as a Met. Sadly, this doesn't seem to be the case in this real world that we live in, and so we are going to have to say goodbye to one of the longest tenured players with the franchise. Floyd carried us in 2005, but major injuries derailed him from being able to do so again in 2006. His Achilles’ Tendon gave him problems throughout most of the season, and while he tried to come back during the playoffs, it was a noble attempt that merely kept Lastings Milledge off of the post-season roster. As much as we love him, Floyd is just too much of a gamble for the Mets to take going into next season. Just like the two Mikes, Piazza and Cameron, Floyd will have to move on, but he will be far from forgotten.

7.) Gary Matthews, Jr.: Matthews, Jr. would be a great addition to the Mets, defensively as well as offensively, coming off of a career season. Matthews hit .313, with 19 home runs, 79 RBI’s and 10 stolen bases during the past season. He has a career BA of .263, but that shouldn’t deter anyone from signing him as he's still relatively young, and is just getting a chance to show what he can do on a full-time basis. He also had a .980 fielding percentage, which he called a "bad year" but he will be most remembered for one of the best catches most of us have ever seen. He will be asking for a big paycheck, but not in the sam range as Carlos Lee. He will probably end up somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 years, $40 million. David knows Matthews' agent, Scott Leventhal, a tough negotiator and strong protector of his players. He'll not only get Matthews' the best deal, but will put him into a situation where he can best display his skills, which is in centerfield, for a team such as the Chicago Cubs. If we didn't have Beltran, we'd love Matthews, but he'd be out of position and a waste if he wasn't patrolling center for some team.

8.) Manny Ramirez: Man, are we tired of hearing all about a possible Ramirez trade! Yes, he may have hit .321 with 35 homers and 102 RBI’s last season, but he possesses a terrible work ethic, looks lost often in the field and is not the type of teammate the Mets are looking for at this time. His contract is huge, and he'd be a one-way player on this team- offense. We need outfielders in Shea to have great range, as it is, after all a pitcher's park. Manny's range is so small that Beltran would need roller skates to cover enough ground to make up for Manny's deficiencies. He'd also cost us something in a trade with the Red Sox, who will probably trade him somewhere like Texas or Anaheim, if they don't end up just keeping him yet again. Let's remove ourselves from the Manny soap opera, once and for all!

9.) Carl Crawford: If Omar made a trade for Crawford, combined with Reyes, it would set up the greatest 1-2 combination in all of baseball. Reyes and Crawford had virtually the same stats this year (Reyes edges him in home runs, RBI’s and stolen bases by only a small percentage) with both hitting .300 or better in career years for both (at young ages, of course with tons more to come!) Crawford hit .305, with 18 home runs, 77 RBI’s and 58 stolen bases. The Devil Rays seem to be interested in Aaron Heilman and, although this would negate the Willis trade or cost us other prized prospects in place of him, were that deal to be made, IF Crawford were to become available, he would be an amazing pick-up for us and would further solidify the young core of players we are building upon.

10.) Jim Edmonds: It looks like Edmonds is about to re-sign with the Cards, for 2 years, 11 mil each. Edmonds is another one of those players that you would like to sign but doesn’t seem to be a smart move for the long term. He was oft-injured this year, hitting just .257 (part of a seemingly steady decline each of the past two years), with just 19 home runs, 70 RBI’s and a fielding percentage of .987. If the Cards don't re-sign him, he'd probably be heading towards the West Coast, where he began his career with the Angels, or to the Cubs, who have made center one of their priorities. He would have been a much better option three years ago, but with his best days behind him, and with a preference to stay with the Cards or move back to the West Coast, Edmonds seems to be the longest of long-shots this offseason.

11.) Jose Guillen: Guillen is a roller-coaster of a player, at his best. He goes from greatness to mediocrity like a pinball, and you never know which Guillen will show up. He has lapses at bat, in the field and on the bases, and has never really seem to put all of that talent to good use in the same season. Some years he does great and others he can’t seem to make contact or field the ball. He has a major blow-up with one of the best managers in the game, the Angels' Mike Scioscia, and he is moody and has been called a "cancer" in the clubhouse. He is definitely the wrong guy for this team, at this time, and will probably wind up as a last option for a team that is not in contention, like the team he is leaving, the Nationals.

12.) Shannon Stewart: An intriguing choice for the Mets, again, if Chavez is not re-signed. Shannon hit .293, with only 2 home runs and 21 RBI’s last season, with a fielding percentage of .984. He was hurt for much of the season, but his average season projects out at 14 homers, 71 RBI's, 25 steals and a .299 average, he's a very good fielder and is great on the bases. He has spent quite a bit of time on the DL the past 3 seasons, playing in only 44 games last year, 132 in 2005 and only 92 in 2004, which brings his value as a free agent down from where it should have been. He generally plays around 135-140 games, which would be fine for us. We like Stewart a lot, especially if we can't sign Chavez. If we don't sign him, he'd be a good fit for the Red Sox or Dodgers, and a return to Toronto might still be in the cards for him.

13.) Trot Nixon: Trot has been declining at the plate for two years now, hitting only .268, while merely 3 years ago he hit .315. Nixon is a very good fielder, but he is going to be 33 at the beginning of the season and has had some health issues of late. He’s a proven winner with Boston, and he'd be a good character player to have on the Mets. When healthy, he might hit 20+ dingers with 75+ RBI's, but he'll want a big contract and his ability to stay healthy is too big an issue for us coming off of a season where the inability of our left-fielder to stay healthy caused us tons of problems. We'll pass on Nixon, who will probably be a replacement for a player like Stewart with the Twins.

14.) Frank Catalanotto: Frank is from Smithtown, New York, where John currently lives, so that gives him instant credibility with us! He’s a consistent hitter with a career average of .297 (.300 this past season). He’s not a big home run hitter with 7 this year but instead hits for average (like Endy). He had a .994 fielding percentage (1 error) and played 128 games this season, and is a former second baseman. This guy is the closest player to Endy you are going to find this off-season, although he's an older version. He's a great "character player" and would be an awesome addition to our bench. Chances are, he'll probably resign with Toronto.

15.) J.D. Drew: Drew is a late addition to this list, having asked to void the final 3 years and $33 million of his Dodgers contract, as per a clause in the original deal he signed with then-GM Paul DePodesta. Drew has never shown much heart as a player, averaging somewhere around 118 games per season. Last year was the first in which he reached 100 RBI's, and he played in his most games ever, 146. Drew is a great athlete, who can play all 3 positions, fields very well, has a good arm and runs well. The problem is, he just does not have that killer instinct that makes a player take the field every day, come rain or shine, and he'd be the wrong player for a team filled with "gamers." He'll wind up with a similar contract to the one he walked away from, and most likely will end up in the American League. However, with Boras as his agent, and knowing the kind of person he's been as a teammate, the walls won't be knocked down in an effort to sign him. We can't even predict where he'll end up at this time, although he did have a very good season during the year he spent in Atlanta. Let's hope he winds up in the A.L., though.

Without further ado, our picks:

John's Picks
Sign/Trade For: Carl Crawford
Dark Horse: Carlos Lee
Fall Back: Endy Chavez

David's Picks

Sign/Trade For: Shannon Stewart
Dark Horse: Carl Crawford
Fall Back: Endy Chavez

With Delgado, Beltran and Wright in the middle of the order, we don't need the big bopper like Lee as much as we need the solid contact hitter that a Stewart would give to the lower third of the order, or that Crawford would give to the top of the order. At this point, we'd love to see Endy return for a full season, at a reasonable price, and possibly sign someone like Catalanatto for the bench. With solid starters, and a good glove/bat at second, our team would be nearly complete. There are just 2 more areas to go- the bullpen, and the bench, both of which we'll be looking at next week as this series concludes.

Let us know which direction YOU think the Mets' should go this off-season, not just in the outfield but at all positions!

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