Mets still eyeing outfield, relief markets


Rich MacLeod

While the Mets offseason has been centered around free agent infielder Ben Zobrist up until this point, that doesn’t mean the team isn’t eying other options at other positions.

According to Newsday’s Marc Carig, the Mets are still looking into the outfield market, and specifically at players such as Denard Span and Gerardo Parra.

Span has dealt with injury issues for the past few seasons, but could be a good buy-low option for the Mets in center field to split time or flat-out take the job from Juan Lagares, while Parra is a player they could platoon and one that they were interested in acquiring during the season.

Span is a catalyst for the top of the lineup. He doesn’t draw a lot of walks, but he makes contact, has first-to-third speed, and when he’s healthy, can be counted on for 200-plus total bases thanks to his ability to take advantage of big ballparks with his triples speed.

Acquiring Span would go a long way towards improving the team’s on-base percentage, and it would allow Curtis Granderson to be moved towards the middle of the lineup as well where his power could be much more valuable.

Certainly, someone like Span doesn’t account for the power lost from Yoenis Cespedes, but he provides a different kind of production with his speed, ability to create run scoring opportunities and ability to make contact. That can only help the swing-and-miss bats in David Wright and Lucas Duda see more strikes and get more fastballs to hit, and along with growth from Michael Conforto a full season of Travis d’Arnaud and utilizing Granderson’s bat in the middle of the lineup, that could also help account for the loss of Cespedes.

But Span missed a lot of time in 2015 due to a bad back. And his absence cost the Nationals dearly too – they were 36-25 when he played, 47-54 when he did not play.

He underwent season-ending hip surgery in late August, but that could mean Span might sign an under-market deal, and try to rebuild some of his value for another run through free agency.

But in a small sample size, Span mashed right-handed pitching in 2015 – he hit .335/.393/.486 with 90 total bases in 56 games. He was mostly ineffective against left-handed pitching, however, posting a .197/.279/.262 line with 16 total bases against southpaws. But neither are in-line with his career marks, as he’s historically been an effective hitter against left-handers, posting a .274/.351/.365 line and a more modest but still impressive .293/.353/.407 mark against right-handers.

As for Parra, he is a tremendous defensive player and had a breakout year in 2015 at the plate, setting a career high with 14 home runs, a .517 slugging percentage, OPS+ of 139 and 247 total bases. Parra is also a phenomenal defensive player.

Parra struggled at the plate after being traded from the Brewers to the Orioles, but again he otherwise had a fabulous year at the plate. But if the Mets were to acquire him, it’s hard to imagine he could replicate his production from this past season in the pitcher-friendly National League East, although defense never slumps and again, he is a fantastic outfielder.

Parra is not a natural fit in centerfield, having played the bulk of his career in both corner outfield spots. It’s also not clear he would want to shift positions and be in a platoon at age 28. There are certainly more natural fits for him elsewhere on the market, and if he can get a 3-4 year deal with those teams, it seems logical for him to pursue those opportunities.

But Parra is not tied to draft compensation for the Mets or any other interested team who might want to sign him.

In addition to the Orioles and Mets, the Royals have expressed interest in Parra so far this winter.

One outfielder the team is not currently in on–per Carig–is Dexter Fowler. While Fowler is an interesting option and still fairly young, it’s logical that the Mets wouldn’t go after him considering he’s tied to draft pick compensation, and the team doesn’t likely want to surrender their first round pick for the second consecutive season.

The outfield isn’t the only alternative market the Mets are looking at, however, as Carig also reports that the team is investigating relievers as well.

As for the bullpen, One free agent reliever the Mets could specifically target is the recently non-tendered Steve Cishek, according to Carig.

Cishek was non-tendered by the Cardinals earlier this week after an up-and-down season with St. Louis and with the Marlins. He was arbitration eligible after earning $6.6 million in 2015, so it made sense for the Cardinals to cut him loose and avoid signing him to a deal between $7-8 million.

He’s a sidearmer who has served as a closer in his career, and that could bode well for the Mets as they look to create a lockdown formula in the latter part of games in 2016.

But while he was solid with the Cardinals – he posted a 2.31 ERA and an ERA+ of 174 after being acquired – he had a rough first half with the Marlins, allowing 51 baserunners in only 32 innings, 14 of which were walks.

So while he has a solid history and had a strong showing with the Cardinals, he comes with some mystery attached to him. But he could be an intriguing option for the Mets if he has his act together.

The Mets have also been linked to Joakim Soria this winter, as well as Darren O’Day, but it seems as though the Nationals could be leading the pursuit of O’Day.

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