For those hoping for a last minute trade or free-agent signing to give the Mets a representative outfield, there will be no meteor like event to change the obvious impression it will be a long season.
Sandy Alderson did not make a significant move over the winter to build the outfield. Instead he tinkered and went into spring training with a “hope for the best” mentality. Now, he’s telling reporters what nobody – outside the players involved – wants to hear which is the Mets are keeping a pat hand.
And, it’s not a full house.
“I think we’ve got a sense of who the five or six are who might be on the team,’’ Alderson said. “How exactly they’re used is something that we’ll talk about over the next week or so. What we have is what we’re going to have, and we’re not entirely displeased with that.’’
Doesn’t that also mean, they are not entirely pleased?
That could be because they have no idea of what they are getting. Byrd is at the end of his career; Cowgill and Baxter have never been fulltime starters; and Duda is trying to learn a new position while at the same time attempting to figure out major league pitching.
Valdespin is now projected to open the season at second base because Daniel Murphy will not be ready. Murphy, down with a strained intercostal muscle, will not play in a minor league game today as hoped. Manager Terry Collins said if Murphy did not play this weekend he would open the season on the disabled list. The announcement is a formality now.
Collins has used Cowgill all over the outfield, while Byrd – perhaps having the greatest offensive upside – has played center and right. Baxter has been mostly used in right field.
The Mets’ best defensive outfielder is Matt den Dekker, but there is no indication they are considering him, citing his offense. Den Dekker has hit well recently, but not enough for the Mets’ liking. It should be noted, that neither has anybody else.
Of the group, only Duda and Baxter were on the roster last season, and Duda could very well be the only one in spring training next season if there’s development in the minor leagues or the Mets spend in the off-season as they promised.
Entering spring training, the penciled-in outfield – from left to right – was Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Baxter, with Cowgill rated No. 4. Byrd wasn’t even in camp and Valdespin was a long shot to make the team.
The acquisition of Byrd put him ahead of Baxter in right because of his offensive potential, and Valdespin hit his way onto the Mets’ radar.
There is no track record to indicate Valdespin will continue to hit and when Murphy returns he will find himself back on the bench.
What the Mets have is a handful of role players who have never performed in the role of a fulltime, productive starter.
What the Mets have is a problem.