Since we last met, both Cody Ross and Nick Swisher came off the market, leaving precious few viable free-agent outfield options remaining for the Flushing Nine. Here’s the full list of unsigned outfielders who bat right-handed or switch, from MLB Trade Rumors:
– Jeff Baker
– Mark DeRosa
– Ben Francisco
– Scott Hairston
– Austin Kearns
– Darnell McDonald
– Ryan Raburn
– Juan Rivera
– Delmon Young
Slim pickings. Not all of those guys could realistically be called outfielders, and some of them are no safe bet to be upgrades over Justin Turner in an outfield corner. No joke.
Baker has played more infield than outfield across his career and suffered a woeful season at the plate in 2012, but he can boast a lifetime .296/.344/.498 split against lefties, even if it’s bolstered by stints in Colorado and Chicago. DeRosa will be 38 by Opening Day and hasn’t done any hitting to speak of since 2009. Francisco’s a poor fielder with no demonstrable platoon split, so he’s no upgrade over the Mets’ cadre of lefty-hitting guys, even against lefties.
Hairston you know about. Kearns you probably know about too, though he’s somehow still only 32. He doesn’t have much of a platoon split either, but since he gets on base and is a decent defender, he wouldn’t be the worst option for the Mets.
McDonald also wouldn’t be terrible on a flyer. A Minor League veteran who became a fan favorite with the Red Sox in 2010, he seemed to suffer at the hands of the BABIP demons in 2012 and has a Fenway-aided and small-sample career .274/.342/.436 line against lefties. Raburn had a terrible, horrible, worse-than-Jason-Bay 2012, but hit lefties very well in 2009 and 2010 and pretty well in 2011. Supposedly six teams are interested in his services, so he might cost more than he’s worth, but on a cheap contract Raburn’s a decent bet to bounce back, with the added bonus of some positional flexibility.
Rivera’s offensive output has been on a steady decline since 2009 and at 34, he’s pretty limited in the outfield, but he can still hit lefties a bit. Delmon Young looks a lot like Reginald VelJohnson but lacks Lieutenant Winslow’s plate discipline.
Not included on MLBTR’s list is my guy Andrew Brown, a better option than about half the above listed players. If I had to rank them in terms of how they’d fit the Mets’ needs, I’d probably go something like this:
With the bottom three there not really preferable to making the best of what’s already available in house.
So, yeah: Scott Hairston makes sense for the Mets, and, since Hairston reportedly seeks playing time above all else, the Mets make sense for Hairston. Depends on the deal, of course, and since Hairston’s hardly Nick Johnson in his ability to get on-base he’s not the ideal fit for the Mets’ lineup. But he’s the best of what’s available, and his awesome laser shots made for some of the team’s greatest moments of 2011 and 2012.