Mets name Collin Cowgill their starting center fielder

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After being acquired from the Athletics during the offseason, Collin Cowgill will open 2013 as the Mets’ full-time center fielder.

According to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, Mets manager Terry Collins made the announcement following this afternoon’s Grapefruit League finale against the Orioles. He’s planning to go with Cowgill in center field, flanked by Lucas Duda in left field and Marlon Byrd in right.

Cowgill earned the job by batting .303 (20-for-66) with five home runs, 10 RBI, four stolen bases and a .969 OPS in 26 games this spring. The 26-year-old didn’t get much of an opportunity during his limited time with the Diamondbacks and Athletics, but the Mets are hoping that he can emerge as a useful everyday player.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis began spring training as the as the favorite for the starting center fielder job, but he’ll open the year as a backup after seeing limited playing time in the Grapefruit League due to a knee injury. Jordany Valdespin was impressive this spring and could work his way into playing time if anyone struggles.

The Mets outfield batted just .237/.312/.393 with a collective 2.1 fWAR last season. With Duda, Cowgill, Byrd, Nieuwenhuis, Valdespin and Mike Baxter, this year’s group doesn’t instill much in the way of confidence, but it might not take much for them to be an improvement over 2012.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.