Friday Q&a, pt. 1: Mets outfield stuff

Luckily I don’t have to decide right now, so this is purely hypothetical. Also, I don’t have to decide in the offseason either. I don’t ever have to decide whether to tender arbitration to Andres Torres and Manny Acosta. But if by some weird chance Sandy Alderson called me in the next five minutes and said, “Hey Ted! It’s me, Sandy Alderson. Should we tender contracts to Torres and Acosta this season? It’s your call, but we need you to decide right now,” I’d probably say yes to Torres and no to Acosta.

The Mets need outfielders in the worst way. Torres certainly hasn’t earned a starting role in 2012, but he’s probably good enough to merit whatever increase he gets on his $2.7 million salary this year. He covers a ton of ground in the outfield, he’s a switch hitter, and he has quietly raised his on-base percentage to a respectable .351 (as of Thursday afternoon when I’m writing this). He seems a good fit as a fourth outfielder, regardless of who else is on the team.

The counter argument, I guess, is that with Jordany Valdespin and Kirk Nieuwenhuis sort of in the fold and Matt den Dekker hopefully coming up the pike, the Mets don’t really need center fielders. But neither Valdespin nor den Dekker can be counted on for much Major League offense at this point, and Nieuwenhuis obviously needs some work. Plus all three of those guys hit left-handed. I look for bigger upgrades, certainly, but unless I’m planning to sign another switch-hitting center fielder, I’m bringing back Torres.

Incidentally, another switch-hitting center fielder — B.J. Upton — [bah – update: Upton is not a switch hitter. My mistake, he bats right] is slated for free agency this offseason. Upton’s enduring a down year and comes with something of a spotty reputation, but he’s a really nice player and he won’t turn 28 until later this month. He’s not the superstar he was once expected to become and I have no idea what he’ll fetch on the open market, but he does seem like a pretty good fit for the Mets. Just depends on the cost, obviously. (That should cover Andrea’s question, incidentally.)

As for Acosta: I’m a pretty big Acosta apologist (Acostogist?) and he’s not likely to earn that much in arbitration, but the guy’s got an ERA over 10. He’s got good enough stuff that you’d expect someone will want him, but I can’t imagine there’ll be a feeding frenzy for his services. I’d try to non-tender him and bring him back on a Minor League deal or something.

Lots of questions about the outfield. Let’s throw Jordany Valdespin into that mix too, to cover @SeanKenny’s question.

In decreasing order of likeliness to start in the 2013 outfield, I’ll say: Nieuwenhuis, Torres, Duda, Valdespin, Bay. As bad as he looked for the last part of his tenure with the 2012 Mets, Nieuwenhuis might be the best all-around player of that lot right now, and he stands to improve moving forward. If the Mets’ opponent starts a righty on Opening Day, I’m guessing Nieuwenhuis is in there.

As I said above, it appears there’s a role for Torres on next year’s club barring a free-agent signing or two, so by default he’s vaguely likely to start Opening Day.

Duda’s future with the team most likely depends on his ability to play the outfield, and there’s not much evidence he can do that just yet. The team appears committed to Ike Davis at first. Since it seems likely Duda will hit like a capable Major League corner player again, he has some value. But there’s not much sense in the Mets’ parting ways with him until he starts hitting at some level or he shows he absolutely cannot play left field. He saw his first time there in Buffalo on Tuesday; the Mets should spend the rest of the month trying to figure out if they can make that work. If it does, he’ll be back in the lineup in the Majors.

Valdespin now looks like he has a Major League future of some sort, but I suspect his offense will regress this year and the Mets will want him to learn to be more patient. And I’d be pretty surprised if Bay’s on the roster to start next season, sunk cost be damned.

So if you’re playing at home, the guy I have as most likely to start Opening Day next year is one of the two currently in Triple-A. Weird. Whatever. Who’ve you got?

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