Mets don’t intend to completely displace Juan Lagares in centerfield
There’s been widespread speculation the Mets would seek a wholesale upgrade to Juan Lagares in centerfield, making him the fourth outfielder and a weapon against left-handed pitching as he was after the trade deadline in 2015.
But Mets Vice President of Player Development Paul DePodesta told Adam Rubin of ESPN New York the Mets do not intend to displace Lagares in centerfield.
Rather, the Mets would essentially like to create a platoon with Lagares, the former Gold Glover who is owed $22.5 million through 2019.
Lagares posted a .771 OPS against left-handed pitching in 2015. Ideally, the Mets would like to find a similarly productive outfielder against right-handed pitching.
Gerardo Parra – who posted an .809 OPS against righties in 2015 and has a career .767 OPS against righties – fits that criteria, although he profiles more as a corner outfielder. He’s an outstanding defensive player coming off of a career year with the Brewers and Orioles.
Denard Span also fits that criteria, and is a natural centerfielder. But the 32-year-old is coming off a season cut short by hip labrum surgery, and it’s not yet clear if his speed and range might be reduced as a result of his injury. But he had an .880 OPS against right-handed pitching in 2015 when he did play and owns a .760 career OPS against righties. He could conceivably take a short-term contract in an attempt to rebuild his value and prove he’s healthy, but it’s not clear that’s the route he might want to take.
In the cases of both Span and Parra, its not yet clear if one or the other would even consider a part-time role, at which point the Mets would either have to decide whether or not to make them full-time players or look to the second tier of free agent outfielders for a solution.
But while the Mets have committed quite a bit of money to Lagares, he has yet to prove he can be an everyday player. And if his defense regresses at the same rate it did in 2015, it’s going to be hard to justify having him be anymore than a fourth outfielder anyway.