5 free agent outfielders for the Mets to consider this winter

Fowler Upton Parra Rasmus Heyward


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–Originally posted November 7, 2015–

The Mets have several needs to fill ahead of the 2016 season, and Sandy Alderson has already said he wants to address such needs and not depend so heavily on their starting pitching for a chunk of the season, as was the case in 2015.

Alderson has said the offense needs to be re-shaped, the bullpen needs work, and in recapping the World Series, he said their defense was lackluster as well.

In addition, the Mets need to improve their speed team-wide.

Assuming both Yoenis Cespedes and Daniel Murphy depart, the Mets will have two glaring vacancies at the top of their depth chart: one in the outfield and one on the infield.

The Mets do have Juan Lagares, a Gold Glove caliber center fielder who proved capable of hitting left-handed pitching in 2015 – he posted a .771 OPS in 132 plate appearances against southpaws this past season.

But he struggled mightily against the right side, posting just a .599 OPS in 333 plate appearances against right-handed pitching in 2015.

So the Mets need to decide if Lagares should be in a platoon or simply convert him into a fourth outfielder. He’s under contract for $2.5 million in 2016 as part of a $22.5 million extension he signed last March, a worthy consideration in the decision-making process.

The question is, after surrendering their first-round pick in the 2015 draft for signing Michael Cuddyer last winter, would the Mets be willing to relinquish a first-round pick in the 2016 draft to sign a free agent who received a qualifying offer? For an organization which prides itself on building from within, it might not be prudent for them to lose a second consecutive opportunity in the first round of the amateur draft.

The Mets will get a pick in the compensation portion of the 2016 draft if Murphy departs, thanks to making him a $15.8 million qualifying offer. They will not receive a compensation pick for Cespedes if he leaves, however, as he cannot be made a qualifying offer due to his mid-season acquisition.

Having said that, there are plenty of options for the Mets to consider which would help them improve their speed, defense, reduce the number of strikeouts, and maintain their power.

Here’s a look at several free agent outfielders the Mets might consider signing this winter…

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Mets still targeting a big bat ahead of the trade deadline

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BaronSandy Alderson said on Tuesday at Citi Field his front office is continuing to speak with other clubs about trades to bring offense to the roster.

The Mets are still aiming high in their search, as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports says they, “have their sights clearly on a big bat.”

The list of players the Mets continue to target includes Justin Upton, Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Gomez, Gerardo Parra and Jay Bruce. Continue reading

The Mets and Padres are at an impasse on Justin Upton

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Rich MacLeodThe Mets, still searching for offense despite acquiring Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson on Friday, have spoke recently to the Padres about outfielder Justin Upton, but are at an impasse.

San Diego appears ready to become sellers as the trade deadline vastly approaches and while Upton will be just a rental as he is a free agent at the end of the season, the Padres asking price reportedly remains too high for Sandy Alderson’s liking.

After the Padres asked New York for one or maybe two top prospects, and refused to pay any of what’s left of the $14.1M Upton’s making this year, the Mets walked away, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports.

The buzz I’ve heard recently is that the Mets tried to sell the Padres of a package involving outfield prospect Brandon Nimmo. If what the Padres asked for was enough for the Mets to balk, however, that would lead me to believe that they may have wanted more, perhaps one of Noah Syndergaard or Steven Matz, or maybe both.

Upton is hitting .248/.326/.420 this season with 10 doubles, 15 home runs, 49 RBI and 17 stolen bases this season and would bring some authority to what has been a punchless Mets lineup. However, if the Padres were indeed asking for one of the big four pitchers, Alderson and company were right to balk at is, as Heyman said they did.

The risk in acquiring Upton now is substantial, although it has nothing to do with the production he would provide the Mets, although he has dealt with recent oblique tightness which has kept him out of games.

He can be a free agent following the World Series. If the Mets acquired Upton now, that would disallow the Mets from making Upton a qualifying offer, as a player traded in-season is not eligible to receive such an offer, per the collective bargaining agreement.

All-Star Game BaseballSo if the Mets send pieces to San Diego to get Upton – and those pieces are obviously very significant – the Mets run the risk of Upton testing free agency, signing somewhere else, and having neither the player, the prospects or the draft compensation to show for the transaction.

And, if the Mets do not make the playoffs and all of the above come to fruition, then the Mets would have sacrificed a lot of talent for nothing more than a fruitless pennant race.

With 2 1/2 months to go before the end of the season, Upton, who is 27 and will likely be the premier right-handed bat on the free agent market this winter, has very little reason to negotiate a new contract now. In fact, Upton reportedly is unwilling to negotiate a contract in-season, making the risk even greater for the Mets or any team who acquires him in trade.

And, that risk evidently concerns the Mets to the point they may not think it’s wise to acquire him, reports Mike Puma of the New York Post. Presumably, other teams are equally concerned about these risks as well.

There are still six days remaining before the July 31st trade deadline, so it’s possible that the Padres asking price could decrease if other teams won’t give up the kind of package that they want. That being said, while the Mets continue to look for more offensive help, it’s appearing less and less likely that Justin Upton will be that guy.

Mets feel it’s unwise to trade for Justin Upton right now

Justin Upton 1 slice


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The Mets have been said to be aiming high in their pursuit for an outfield upgrade ahead of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

Among those the club has expressed interest in is 27-year-old Padres OF Justin Upton to fill their need, according to multiple reports.

That interest, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, is said to be significant enough to the point the Mets and Padres have had trade discussions, and San Diego has recently sent scouts to watch the Mets minor league system.

The risk in acquiring Upton now is substantial, although it has nothing to do with the production he would provide the Mets, although he has dealt with recent oblique tightness which has kept him out of games.

He can be a free agent following the World Series. If the Mets acquired Upton now, that would disallow the Mets from making Upton a qualifying offer, as a player traded in-season is not eligible to receive such an offer, per the collective bargaining agreement.

All-Star Game BaseballSo if the Mets send pieces to San Diego to get Upton – and presumably, those pieces would need to be very significant – the Mets run the risk of Upton testing free agency, signing somewhere else, and having neither the player, the prospects or the draft compensation to show for the transaction.

And, if the Mets do not make the playoffs and all of the above come to fruition, then the Mets would have sacrificed a lot of talent for nothing more than a fruitless pennant race.

With 2 1/2 months to go before the end of the season, Upton, who is 27 and will likely be the premier right-handed bat on the free agent market this winter, has very little reason to negotiate a new contract now. In fact, Upton reportedly is unwilling to negotiate a contract in-season, making the risk even greater for the Mets or any team who acquires him in trade.

And, that risk evidently concerns the Mets to the point they may not think it’s wise to acquire him, reports Mike Puma of the New York Post. Presumably, other teams are equally concerned about these risks as well.

As such, it appears it is unlikely the Mets will acquire the All-Star outfielder, according to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York.

Still, Upton one of the most intriguing options available to the Mets, and one of the few pending free agents who can provide a true, longer-term solution to their problems. In the short-term, the Mets either could (and should) turn a corner outfield spot into a platoon between Curtis Granderson and Michael Cuddyer, or shutdown Cuddyer because of his balky knee altogether which makes the situation with Granderson less complicated. Both solutions would afford a player like Upton a full-time opportunity in the other outfield spot.

Alternatively, the Mets could simply wait for Upton to become a free agent this winter and bid for his services along with his other suitors. Of course, that would require a significant, long-term investment from the club, something they have yet to show they’re willing to do outside of David Wright, which took place nearly three years ago.

Mets remain interested in Carlos Gomez, maybe Justin Upton

Carlos Gomez Justin Upton


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The Mets are apparently aiming high in their search for offense this summer, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports wrote late last week. So much so they’ve set their sights on Padres OF Justin Upton and Brewers OF Carlos Gomez to help boost their sub-competitive offense.

Their interest could be to a point where the Mets and Padres have had recent trade discussions, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported on Friday. Those discussions apparently have led the Padres to start scouting players in the Mets minor league system, Heyman wrote last week.

Justin UptonIt remains to be seen if the Mets are able to acquire either, as both players will likely require a greater commitment than a group of prospects including Gavin Cecchini, Brandon Nimmo or Michael Fulmer. But for now, Heyman says the Mets remain interested in the star outfielders, although Adam Rubin of ESPN New York debunked some of this, stating the Mets were not in on Upton.

The risk in acquiring Upton now is substantial, although it has nothing to do with the production he would provide the Mets, although he is currently sidelined with oblique tightness.

He can be a free agent following the World Series. If the Mets acquired Upton now, that would disallow the Mets from making Upton a qualifying offer, as a player traded in-season is not eligible to receive such an offer.

So if the Mets send pieces to San Diego to get Upton – and presumably, those pieces would need to be more significant than one of – the Mets run the risk of Upton testing free agency, signing somewhere else, and having neither the player, the prospects or the draft compensation to show for the transaction.

And, if the Mets do not make the playoffs and all of the above come to fruition, then the Mets would have sacrificed a lot of talent for nothing more than a fruitless pennant race.

The Mets could theoretically look to sign Upton long-term if they were to acquire him now. He’s in his age-27 season, he’s a difference-making, right-handed bat with power, all of which are rare commodities to find on the open market in the game today.

Given that, however, Upton has very little reason to limit his market to one team right now versus testing free agency this winter and letting the bidding run it’s course against other teams.

But he’s one of the most intriguing options available to the Mets, and one of the few pending free agents who can provide a true, longer-term solution to their problems. In the short-term, the Mets could (and should) turn a corner outfield spot into a platoon between Curtis Granderson and Michael Cuddyer which would afford a player like Upton a full-time opportunity in the other outfield spot.

That would require a significant, long-term investment from the club, something they have yet to show they’re willing to do outside of David Wright, which took place nearly three years ago.

As for the 29-year-old Gomez, he comes with less short-term risk, as he can’t be a free agent until after the 2016 season. If they were to acquire Gomez, they would be on the hook for about $12-13 million through 2016.

Gomez has taken a step back offensively this season and his stolen bases are down, but he’s still posted a .768 OPS and 109 OPS+ in 65 games in 2015. He’s become and electric player since the Mets originally traded him to the Twins in 2008, featuring a combination of both speed and power from the right side proving hard to come by in the game today. His game of speed and defense would be a good fit for the Mets with their pitching staff and ballpark, although his defense has been just about league average in 2015.

But like Upton, the cost in trade could be more substantial than the Mets are willing to move, especially with the extra year of control which adds value in trade.