On Monday night, mere hours after signing as a free agent, Rick Ankiel became the ninth player to start a game in the outfield and the fifth player to start a game in center field for the New York Mets.
After searching for answers throughout their outfield during the first six weeks of the season, the Mets took a flyer on Ankiel, who was just released by the Houston Astros after hitting .195 in 25 games with just 12 hits, eight of which were for extra bases.
The Mets’ signing Ankiel shows just how desperate they have become for productive outfielders, and Ankiel being released by the Astros and signing with the Mets shows just how desperate he has become for a job in Major League Baseball. But in a way, it’s a fresh start for both sides.
Despite his struggles this season and during the past few seasons, there’s no reason why the Mets shouldn’t be willing to give Ankiel a shot. In an outfield full of young and unproven players, the outfielder gives the Mets a much-needed veteran presence who has at least proven in the past that he’s a capable outfielder both offensively and defensively, and perhaps a change of scenery is all he needs to get things turned around.
From Ankiel’s perspective, going to the Mets is an opportunity to extend his career. The Astros are in full rebuilding mode and have a reason to play younger players, but the Mets are in a place where they need to do whatever it takes to put a competitive team on the field. If Ankiel helps them do that, then there is an incentive to keep him around, making New York a place where he figures to get a fair chance.
In his debut with the Mets against the St. Louis Cardinals, Ankiel was 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts. Moving forward, he will platoon in center field with rookie Juan Lagares, which means he should get plenty of playing time.
As much as Ankiel hopes to prolong his career, the Mets hope Ankiel can give them a reliable and productive center fielder. It can’t get much worse for the Mets in the outfield, so they have nothing to lose by giving him a chance.