The Not So Hot Corner Outfield Spot
The thing that scares me more than the boogie man under my bed or my girlfriend saying "we need to talk" is the right field situation in 2005. It is anyone's guess as too who it may be out there in 2005...Beltran, Garcia/Spencer platoon, Burnitz, Micky Mouse, Pope John Paul, or Magglio. As early as it may be to talk about that, it does relate to an area that the Mets may be interested in strengthening prior to the trading deadline if they make the grave mistake of detouring from their plan. Carlos Beltran and Magglio Ordonez are obviously the prized possessions at the end of '04 season, but neither one really seems likely to end up at Shea. Here is my list of most likely options:
Carlos Beltran would be the best available person for the job. He will be 28 years old opening day 2005 and would fit the idea of younger, more athletic, and quality glove the Mets were preaching about this past off season. We can afford him, but the problem would be that we have Mike Cameron in center. Beltran would most likely not accept a move to right field since he should have more than enough offers that would actually include that in his 2005 job description. The option is always there to move Cameron to right, but that seems as likely as Steve Phillips getting re-hired as Mets GM for 2005. The thought of Matsui, Reyes, Beltran, Piazza and Floyd as the first five in my lineup is the equivalent of free buffalo wings and free beer for the rest of my life, it cannot get better than that. Especially since the top three batters would all be switch hitters with serious speed. Unfortunately, this is just a pipe dream unless Duquette can pull of some serious magic. The fact that Boras is his agent does not bode for us either. Boras and the Mets have had little to no working relationship in the past and we have no Boras clients on the team (not 100%, but pretty sure). While anything can happen, I would have to say this is a long shot.
Magglio Ordonez would be the second choice for the Mets. He will be 31 on opening day and still has plenty left in the tank. He is a perennial .300, 30 homer, 100 RBI guy that would drop quite nicely into the 3-hole in the batting order. The biggest obstacle with him would be the White Sox. He has made no secret that he wants to return to the White Sox and the White Sox have said they want him to return. The sticking point is adding a fifth year to his contract, which Magglio is 100% stuck on and the White Sox have been reluctant to give. The White Sox have Carlos Lee in the outfield and have three strong prospects in Jeremy Reed, Joe Borchard, and Ryan Sweeney for the outfield as well. In terms of their minor league system, the outfield is the deepest position in the system, which is why they would rather not have Magglio for the full five years. There is a chance that the contract talks will break down. It is my opinion that the White Sox could spend that $15,000,000 per year in other areas, more specifically pitching, especially since they have plenty of near ready major league outfielders that can step into right field. If the talks to wind down, I think the Mets have as good a chance as anyone to land him, but that is a huge IF. I do believe the White Sox will give in to that fifth year, and Magglio will be off the table.
Milton Bradley would register next on my list for most desirable people to land in right field at Shea in 2005. Although he has a bad reputation, I have not heard anything negative about him this year and sometimes you have to take a chance anyway. His numbers suffer a bit while he is a home in Dodger Stadium, but they are not too bad overall. Playing in LA really gives the Mets a good idea how he would fare in Flushing. He would be a lot cheaper than the aforementioned pair above, but not quite at the same talent level. He would surely be an upgrade and he would come with a high ceiling. Bradley has the tools to be a top tier player and showed that last year. It sure does not hurt to be the creator of Chutes & Ladders either. In the end, since I believe Beltran will remain in the AL and Magglio will be resigned to the White Sox, the Dodgers will have the inside track on Bradley. He will have been on the team for a year already and the Dodgers have the pockets to give him whatever he will be asking for. Since they will be devoid of options, the will give in. After all, they gave up their third best prospect in the system for him, they might as well keep in around for a few years.
The Shane Spencer/Karim Garcia platoon may rear its' ugly head in 2005. While I will be the first to say that two headed monster has impressed me a lot this year, especially with their hustle, they are not the long term solution. Flashing the occasional leather and running down the line like you are running from the cops will only get you so far. Karim has an abysmal .281 OBP% which is not acceptable in any form of a starting role. Furthermore, the reason he was brought here was to hit righties. He is batting .218 against righties with a .262 OBP% and is hitting .368 against lefties with a .400 OBP%. I do realize the ABs vs. left handed pitching is small, but the he has not done his job against righties to say the least. Continuing on this strange trend, Shane Spencer is hitting .214 with a .241 OBP% against lefties and is hitting .347 with a .392 OBP% against righties. I am not even going to try and get into analyzing this, but they are doing the exact opposite that there were brought here to do! By this reasoning, Spencer should platoon when a right-hander is on the mound and Garcia should platoon when a left-hander is on the mound. Either way you shake it, they would be welcome on the bench as outfield reserve players, but not my idea of the production that this Mets team needs from that right field spot.
Eric Valent has played himself into this mix. Although I cannot seriously count him as an option since he only has 4 at bats against lefties, all resulting in no hits. He would need to get some serious playing time versus lefties and prove himself in a bigger sample size. I do not think the Mets front office would be considering him very seriously at the end the year as a valid option, and I do think he is useful player, but more in reserve position. (At least the reserve outfield spots in '05 looks pretty good)
Victor Diaz is a long shot for this spot but is definitely a candidate none the less. He is a second baseman made outfielder that is a perennial batting champion in the minor leagues, but got off to a sluggish start this year. He is still batting under .270, but I do not anticipate that will be the case all year. He may not be able to field, but the guy can rake. He has a long way to prove that he is worth consideration, and those three walks in 40 games do not help either.
Craig Brazell can be thrown into the same long shot category that Victor Diaz is in. Like Victor Diaz, he has never seen a pitch he did not like. With organizations stressing players to work the count and getting on base with a free pass, he would be classified in the anti-Moneyball category as he has only walked 7 times in 41 games. His walk totals are the worst thing he has going for him, but he has major league power. He is currently on pace to hit over forty home runs in AAA. That is impressive enough to catch anyone's eye. Brazell for the most part plays first base, but can play a little outfield and may ultimately be better suited in left field if he did get the nod to play the outfield on a consistent basis.
With the exception of a trade out of the blue, I believe those will be the choices Duquette will be faced with to plug into right field. Some decisions better than others, but most will leave us around the same talent level that we have right now. I'm sure some other guys will be thrown into the mix, but after Geoff Jenkins and Garret Anderson extended their contracts with their current teams, it really hurt the talent pool. I guess the two year contract that Duquette refused to give Jose Guillen looks pretty appetizing at this point when presented with the likely options. Beltran will draw interest from the Yankees, Cubs, BoSox, Mets, and Dodgers. That is a bidding war we may not be able to win. As for Magglio, I believe our only serious competition if he does not sign with the Sox is the Dodgers. They want will most likely want him as bad as we do especially since they traded their right fielder of the future Franklin Gutierrez in order to get Milton Bradley. However, with the way that the Mets treat the superstar free agents, I'm sure we will hear some excuses as to whey they cannot make an offer to Beltran and Ordonez and we will be relegated to another year of the dynamic duo or something equivalent. Maybe I am being pessimistic, but the Mets front office has not exactly been kind to us and the big fish are going to be tough to land. I sure hope I am wrong though.
If you have any thoughts, ideas, predictions on who will be in the right field by Franco's tomato plants, post your comments.