While the Mets opening in center field is unlikely to be filled until after the new year, that doesn’t mean they’re not currently weighing a multitude of different options.
In addition to having interest in Denard Span, the Mets are also looking at Will Venable and Alejandro De Aza as left-handed outfield options, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.
For most of this offseason, various reports have stated the team’s interest in Span, but this is the first time they’ve been connected to Venable or De Aza this winter.
Venable was reportedly on the Mets radar at the trade deadline this past summer. He checks the box as being a left-handed hitting outfielder and while he’s about league average defensively, he is also capable of playing all three outfield positions reliably.
He played mostly everyday for the Padres in 2015, but he might ultimately be better suited in a part-time role as his production drops off considerably against left-handed pitching, which isn’t the worst thing in the world since Juan Lagares is expected to be productive against southpaws.
He would certainly be a quality depth move, but he doesn’t profile as someone who can start everyday if necessary, whereas someone like Span does.
De Aza, who played for three different teams in 2015, is another interesting under-the-radar option for this team. Like Venable, De Aza is versatile in the outfield and does most of his damage at the plate against right-handed pitching.
In 2015, De Aza hit .278/.351/.448 with 17 doubles, five triples, 33 RBI and an even .800 OPS against left-handed pitching in 102 games.
On the downside, however, may be his ability to play center field. Over the course of his career, De Aza has shown the ability to play all three outfield spots, however, during his age 31 season this past year, he started just one game in center field. The year prior, he started just 15 games, thus making him less of a fit for this team.
At the end of the day, while Venable or De Aza could be of some value, the Mets’ sights seem to be focused on Span, who is scheduled to work out for the team in January, according to Ken Davidoff of the New York Post.
The Mets seem reluctant to offer Span more than a two-year deal, presumably because of the injury concern. And Span’s willingness to workout for teams is an indication other interested parties are concerned about Span’s health as well, and are weary of meeting such demands.
If he is healthy, however, Span is capable of being a catalyst for the top of any lineup. He has a career on-base percentage of .351, he puts the ball in play, 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, which would allow Curtis Granderson to be moved towards the middle of the lineup as well where his power could be much more valuable, potentially helping to account for the loss of Yoenis Cespedes.
“I think all indications are that he’s healthy,” Richard Justice of MLB.com had to say about Span recently. “He is such a perfect fit for the New York Mets.”