Yes, the Mets’ front office does have a pulse.
After weeks of hand-wringing, and an acquisition of one declining outfielder that excited absolutely nobody, the Mets have put themselves on the hot stove transaction map for real now with an agreement with free agent outfielder Curtis Granderson on a four-year, $60 million contract.
Granderson is not without his flaws, and his left-handed pull power isn’t going to play nearly as well in Citi Field as it did in portside hitters’ haven Yankee Stadium, but the Mets’ outfield—at least, offensively—was so woefully inadequate in 2013 that even if Granderson can achieve just two-thirds of the power production he put out for the Yankees in 2011 and 2012, when his combined 84 home runs led the major leagues over that span—it’s a significant upgrade for a Mets lineup that was remarkably unable to score runs in its own ballpark.
Granderson had just a .723 OPS with seven home runs in 61 games during an injury-plagued 2013, but those injuries were not of the variety that would suggest that the outfielder—who will be 33 by Opening Day 2014—is breaking down physically. He strikes out a ton, and his .261 career batting average includes just a .226 mark against left-handed pitching, but Granderson did lead the American League in both RBI and runs scored in 2011, is reputed to be a plus in the clubhouse, and will bring some credibility to a Mets lineup that cries out for just that.
The Mets’ other off-season acquisition so far, outfielder Chris Young, is their latest attempt to turn a former Oakland Athletic into gold. That hasn’t worked out too well with other recent former A’s who joined the Mets, and Young’s production has plummeted precipitously from his best season in 2010, when he hit 27 home runs and batted .257 for Arizona. Since then, his batting averages have been .236, .231 and .200. His home runs have dropped from 27 to 20 to 14 to 12. These look like more than off seasons. This is a definite and alarming trend for a 30-year-old outfielder who has claimed he only needs more regular playing time.
At some point, though, the claim that more playing time will remedy a player’s poor performance has to be measured against the depth of that poor performance itself. Chris Young was basically a right-handed Ike Davis in 2013, and the Mets haven’t exactly shown a sterling ability to turn declining hitters around with their organizational tutelage. Quite the opposite, in fact.
It is a fervent hope here that Young, unless and until he proves that he’s something more than the next Colin Cowgill, won’t take significant playing time from 2013’s center fielder Juan Lagares, who really does need playing time to continue to develop as an offensive player, and who plays center field better than almost anybody who has ever worn a Mets uniform, other than Carlos Beltran or Tommie Agee.
Granderson, Young and Lagares are all center fielders by trade. It’s hard to imagine either of the two veterans being a better center fielder defensively at this point in their careers than Lagares is.
And, now that Justin Turner has been non-tendered, suspicion is aroused that last season’s left fielder, Eric Young Jr., the National League’s stolen base leader, will be used more as a semi-full time utility-man, spelling three outfielders and a second baseman, should Daniel Murphy still be on the roster by Opening Day.