When Michael Bourn signed on the dotted line with the Cleveland Indians, the off-season officially became a failure for the New York Mets and general manager Sandy Alderson, at least as far as the outfield goes. Signing Bourn, whether it cost them their first round draft pick or not, would have made a positive impact for the Mets in an area of great need.
That’s not to say Alderson failed in other areas, as he did bring in catching and bullpen help, but in the outfield–where the Mets needed a lot of help–he failed to deliver.
The Mets needed some combination of a right-handed bat, a power bat, and a leadoff hitter to be added to their outfield this off-season, but the only player that Alderson added to the major league roster was Collin Cowgill, who was acquired from the Oakland Athletics in a trade for third base prospect Jefry Marte.
Alderson also added veteran Marlon Byrd and unproven youngsters Andrew Brown and Jamie Hoffman to the mix by signing each to minor league contracts, with an invitation to major league spring training. Cowgill has fewer than 200 majorleague at-bats, but is expected to platoon in center field with Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Meanwhile, Byrd, Brown, and Hoffman will audition to be the 5th outfielder on the Mets roster, with a chance to platoon in right field.
To Alderson’s credit, all four players he brought in to help the outfield are right-handed, but none are prime candidates to bat in the leadoff spot, and outside of the aging Byrd, none of them have proven they can hit for power in the big leagues. Furthermore, none of the four project as full-time players, which means if they make the team they will share a role with one of the Mets returning outfielders – Nieuwenhuis, Lucas Duda, and Mike Baxter.
Duda has tantalizing power, but he also has well-documented struggles and will be under a lot of pressure to perform at a high level this season; Nieuwenhuis is an injury waiting to happen and has not succeeded in the big leagues for an extended period of time; and Baxter excelled last year in a part-time role, but would be in over his head if asked to play full time.
After the failure to sign Bourn or bring in any other impact player in the outfield, the Mets outfield doesn’t look any better today than it did when the 2012 season ended, when the grossly disappointing Jason Bay was still a part of the team. Alderson failed to upgrade the Mets outfield in any way, and as a result the Mets are now forced to move forward with unproven and unreliable players at all three outfield positions, which is perhaps its biggest problem heading into the 2013 season.