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Outfielders Past, Present and Future

Posted By Howard Megdal On August 25, 2011 @ 10:23 am In Today's Mets headlines | Comments Disabled

Some fairly interesting things are going on around Metsland this morning. Let’s start with Nick Evans, whose season OPS+ of 151 puts Jose Reyes’s 143 to shame. MVP? Not even on his own team!

In all seriousness, while it is silly to assume this is Evans’ level of production- after all, his OPS+ going into yesterday was just 115- there’s plenty of evidence that Evans is a legitimate plus bat for the Mets. Over his past two seasons, in 97 plate appearances, he’s at an OPS+ of 136. Still not a great sample size, but further buttressed by his minor league performance. His Buffalo 2010 hitting [1], for instance, translates out to roughly an .800 OPS as well.

In other words, it is pretty apparent that the Mets have, in Nick Evans and Lucas Duda, a platoon ready to absolutely crush major league pitching next year in left or right field. Both of them have significant platoon splits, but their performances against lefties and righties, respectively, are extremely encouraging. Both will be low-cost alternatives next season. And with Kirk Nieuwenhuis returning from shoulder surgery, Fernando Martinez continuing to struggle to stay healthy, and Zach Lutz largely a major league unknown, having the pair of them is a luxury.

However, they may need to be split, one sent to right, the other to left, because Jason Bay has just been awful. I have advocated in this space that the Mets continue to play him for the rest of 2011, since he is signed through 2013. If the Mets hope to derive any value from that contract, they need Bay to show some signs of life between now and the end of the season. It is less likely now than it was a month ago, but if Bay began to hit like 2009 Bay tomorrow through the end of the season, it doesn’t seem impossible that some other team would deal a bad contract to the Mets for Bay.

But holy cow, I just can’t believe he’s been so terrible. As I pointed out on Twitter yesterday, Nick Evans had four extra-base hits in an 18 hour span from Tuesday night through Wednesday afternoon. Jason Bay has 21 extra base hits since Opening Day. Evans put up 19 percent of Bay’s season extra-base hit totals in less than a full day.

So the question becomes- is Bay already a sunk cost? If he isn’t, if the Mets can either improve the bad contract they could possibly get in return for Bay with a great September from him, or provide some other team with just enough motivation to think a change of scenery might work, then he should play until at least the end of the season. The 2012 options aren’t really hurt, since the Mets have a pretty good grasp on how two of their in-house replacements would perform if/when they cut bait on Bay. If the Mets need to pay most of Bay’s remaining deal to be rid of him, the in-house options at least allow for him to be replaced effectively at minimal cost.

And to those who don’t think any team would take Bay following 104 and 84 OPS+ season, even if the Mets ate most of the money, remember that a team once took Gary Matthews Jr. following 93, 77 and 85 OPS+ seasons. Matthews Jr. was also three years older than Bay. Unfortunately, Omar Minaya isn’t the GM of another team, but such things do happen.

Speaking of Matthews Jr., his father’s comments that the Mets are “crybabies”, aside from showing an astonishing lack of professionalism, are particularly rich given the fact that the Mets are still paying his son for his 65 plate appearances with an OPS+ of 40 last year. For those keeping score at home, ten starting pitchers have bested that OPS+ mark this year. His WAR checks in at -0.2. So it is a mathematical certainty that a reason the 2010 Mets lost, at any rate, is Matthews Sr.’s own son.

Matthews Jr. had two years and $22 million left on his deal when the Mets traded Brian Stokes for him prior to the 2010 season, and agreed to take on $1 million in 2010, $1 million in 2011. Jerry Manuel even gave Matthews Jr. the Opening Day assignment in center field over Angel Pagan, and roughly half the starts in the first tenth of the season, until realizing that Pagan was a better bet since he was still ambulatory.

Never mind the content of his remarks- has anyone in recent years simultaneously showboated and complained about any displays of emotions from the Mets more than the Phillies?- and just consider that as Matthews Sr. criticized the Mets, his son is well-paid by the organization for doing his job so poorly that even Jerry Manuel recognized it.

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[1] Buffalo 2010 hitting: http://mlsplits.drivelinebaseball.com/mlsplits/playerinfo/452783

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