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.
At the end of April, Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon was handed an 80-game suspension by Major League Baseball after testing positive for exogenous testosterone and Clostebol, performance-enhancing drugs. Gordon says he took those substances unknowingly.
Gordon will return to the Marlins on Thursday, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports. The club was 10-11 prior to Gordon’s suspension. Since then, the club has gone 43-35 and is now tied with the Mets for second place in the NL East, five games behind the Nationals. Impressively, the Marlins have collectively hit .272/.330/.408 in Gordon’s absence, which compares favorably to the league average .252/.320/.410 triple-slash line.
Gordon, who made the NL All-Star team in 2014 and ’15, was hitting .266/.289/.340 with three doubles, two triples, five RBI, 13 runs scored, and six stolen bases in 97 plate appearances. Derek Dietrich has handled second base in the meantime and has done an admirable job, batting .275/.366/.398 with 22 extra-base hits, 30 RBI, and 26 runs scored in 314 PA. Nevertheless, Gordon is likely to return to full-time duty at second base.
Update (10:12 AM EDT): Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reports the Padres will receive pitcher Hansel Rodriguez from the Blue Jays. Rodriguez is rated as the Jays’ 18th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. The Jays signed Rodriguez out of the Dominican Republic for $330,000 in February 2014. He’s spent the 2016 season with the Bluefield Blue Jays in rookie ball, compiling a 3.06 ERA with a 26/11 K/BB ratio in 32 1/3 innings over six starts.
The Padres and Blue Jays have agreed on a trade involving outfielder Melvin Upton, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported on Tuesday morning. The Jays will get Upton and the Padres will receive a prospect from Single-A. The financial details are not yet known, but Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune says the Padres are expected to cover a significant portion of his remaining contract. The trade is likely to be finalized on Tuesday.
The two teams opened up a three-game series in Toronto on Monday, so Upton won’t have to go very far to join his new team. The Jays won 4-2 on Monday.
Upton, 31, has had another solid season for the Padres, batting .256/.304/.439 with 16 home runs, 45 RBI, 46 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases in 374 plate appearances. He’s owed the remainder of his $15.45 million salary for the 2016 season and $16.45 million next season, the final year of his five-year contract.
Upton will provide some outfield depth for the Jays, who currently only have Ezequiel Carrera as a full-time back-up outfielder behind Michael Saunders, Kevin Pillar, and Jose Bautista. Bautista was activated from the disabled list on Monday, so Upton could cover right field in the event that Bautista exacerbates his toe injury.
With Upton leaving San Diego, Alex Dickerson is likely to see full-time work in left field in the short term. Prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot could be called up at some point this season as well.