The Mets made a splash this off-season, signing Curtis Granderson to a four-year, $60 million contract. They also picked up Chris Young on the cheap, and manager Terry Collins views him as a starter. That leaves one spot in the outfield between Juan Lagares and Eric Young, Jr.
According to Mike Vorkunov of the Star-Ledger, it sounds like Young is in the lead and Lagares may be relegated to a bench role or sent to Triple-A Las Vegas.
“As we sit here today Eric Young is the guy you’d like to see at the top of the order,” Collins said.
Collins also said: “Juan had a nice winter but when he gets in here we’ve got to see what our best options are. We’ve got three guys that can play centerfield that we know of and by gosh the best one is going to be out there because it’s a big position. Especially in our park…So we’ve got some jobs out there and if we need one of those guys to get nights off we know we’ll have a quality player to put in there. So we’ll make decisions farther in spring training.”
Lagares was quietly one of the more productive outfielders in baseball last season despite leaving a lot to be desired offensively. Both Baseball Reference (using DRS) and FanGraphs (using UZR) rated Lagares as a significantly above-average defender. Between center field (819 2/3 innings) and right field (84 1/3 innings), DRS credited him with 30 runs saved while UZR credited him with 24. By WAR, Baseball Reference lists Lagares as the 67th most valuable position player in baseball in 2013. FanGraphs ranked him 85th among those with at least 400 plate appearances.
The Mets, however, lack a “true” leadoff hitter, which is why they like Young. Young was even less impressive with the bat than Lagares last season, but he got on base three percent more often and stole a league-leading 46 bases in 57 attempts. Young also offers flexibility, having played all three spots in the outfield as well as second base.
Update (7:01 PM EDT): David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the deal has been completed.
ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.
Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.
Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2020 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. The suspension is up on August 2. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.