Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen has accomplished the heavy lifting this offseason. But those final pieces yet to come will make all the difference…
On paper, it would appear the New York Mets have a plethora of outfielders on their 25-man roster. Their projected starting lineup is set to include Michael Conforto in centerfield, Brandon Nimmo in right field, and on a trial basis, Jeff McNeil uprooted from second base by the arrival of Robinson Cano in left field.
Yoenis Cespedes, usually the Mets left fielder, is recovering from a double heel surgery and the team does not expect him to return until July or August. Or, as befitting as things go with Cespedes until Yoenis pronounces himself fit and ready to play. Juan Lagares and Keon Broxton round out the outfielders currently listed, though neither is expected to receive much playing time.
Counting them up, the Mets have 5 1/2 outfielders set to see action in 2019. On the surface, that’s more than enough. But when you consider Cespedes out injured, McNeil trying to play a new position, together with Lagares who seemingly is always injured, and Broxton, a pickup from the Brewers who managed to appear in only 53 games in 2018 while batting a woeful .179 with four home runs and 11 batted in, what do the Mets really have?
Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo are mainstays and big years are expected from them. Shortly, the Mets are looking to both players stepping into a leadership role, but given their age (26) it’s too soon for that to happen this season.
Again, concerning leadership from other position players on the team, only Todd Frazier and Robinson Cano are likely candidates. Frazier is a natural born leader, but no one can predict how he will react to reduced playing time if Peter Alonzo does what he’s supposed to do by grabbing the job at first base. As for Cano, let’s just say no one raves about his presence in the clubhouse.
All of which is to say the Mets should take a long and hard look at free agent outfielder, Adam Jones. Spotrac’s Free Agent Tracker lists the market value of Jones at $17 million. The Mets will never go that high, nor should they. At 32, Adam Jones is one of those “old” guys that GM’s are noticeably no longer interested in. In a “normal” free agent year, Jones would be looking at a three-year deal worth $40-50 million.
But as we know, this is anything but a normal offseason. Thus, the Mets, or any team, can have Jones in a one-year deal worth (say) $10 million. Van Wagenen can offset that by unloading Lagares, who somehow commands a salary of $9 million this year, even if the Mets have to eat a portion of Lagares’s money.
In return, the Mets get a veteran outfielder to assist “the kids” (especially McNeil), and a widely respected person in the clubhouse and his community (his work for charities is legendary) during his years in Baltimore. Here’s a former teammate, Mark Trumbo, lamenting on Jones not yet having a job:
There’s always the chance Jones could sign with the hapless Orioles again, but they are clearly in a rebuilding mode, and Jones has already given his best years to the Orioles, having played in only 14 postseason games over 11 years with the team.
From both sides then, it appears to be a good match. Always healthy and ready to play, Baseball Reference projects Adam Jones to hit .270 with 19 home runs and 65 RBI in 500+ at-bats in 2019. Put that against the projection for Juan Lagares of .250 with five home runs, 11 RBI in 250 at-bats, and the move to Jones is a no-brainer.
At the outset, we said the Mets and Brodie Van Wagenen had done the heavy lifting. All that’s needed now are the one or two pieces to complete the puzzle. Adam Jones remains out there, inconceivably almost forgotten. The Mets should reel him in ASAP.