With Andres Torres (calf) joining Scott Hairston (oblique) on the sidelines, Jason Bay volunteered to take over in center field for the Mets.
Torres is still hopeful of being ready for Opening Day, but Hairston is probably DL bound. The Mets’ third-best option in center field, prospect Kirk Nieuwenhuis, is also nursing an oblique strain.
That leaves the Mets with Jason Bay, fellow corner outfielder Mike Baxter, pitcher-turner-right fielder Adam Loewen and second baseman Jordany Valdespin as their center field options at the moment.
And none of those are ideal. Bay, who lost a step or two due to knee woes, last played center with the Pirates in 2005. Baxter played 43 games there in the minors, but two-thirds of those were in A ball in 2006-07. Loewen played 16 games in center in Triple-A last year and made errors on three of his 40 chances (good for a .925 fielding percentage). Valdespin has made one outfield appearance his entire pro career, that coming in the Dominican Summer League in 2007.
For what it’s worth, Baxter got the start in center in Wednesday’s exhibition game. Don’t be surprised if the Mets pick up another outfielder on waivers at some point within the next couple of weeks.
Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.
While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.
Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.
Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”
Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.
If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.