With the New York Mets signing two outfielders this offseason in Curtis Granderson and Chris Young, it’s created an interesting situation for the Mets’ two incumbent outfielders, Juan Lagares and Eric Young Jr. The team now has four outfielders that could be considered viable candidates to be everyday players.
The Mets are giving Granderson $60 million over the next four years, and he’s expected to be the team’s cleanup hitter behind David Wright, so he’s a safe bet to play everyday. The team also assured Young of regular at-bats when they signed him, so he’s likely to stay in the lineup unless he has profound trouble hitting right-handed pitching, although he’ll have at least a couple months to prove himself. That leaves Lagares and Young Jr. battling for the third and final outfield spot.
Mets manager Terry Collins shed some light on the issue by saying that Lagares was the starter heading into Spring Training, but he also complicated the situation by saying that if Young Jr. proves in Spring Training that he can get on base at a higher rate than his .318 OBP last year, the Mets will have to find a spot for him in the lineup — likely at the expense of Lagares. Of course, Lagares could also play his way out of a full-time position if he struggles to be productive at the plate.
The issue is that both bring something special to the table. Lagares is an elite defensive center fielder that can prevent countless runs with his glove and arm. Meanwhile, Young Jr. gives the Mets speed and a bona fide leadoff hitter, two things they don’t have on their roster outside of him.
That decision between speed and defense will be a tough one for Collins and the Mets to make. Both Lagares and Young Jr. have their strengths and weaknesses, but putting the two players in a platoon and playing them each part time isn’t a viable solution. So barring something unforeseen, Collins will have to decide which player he prefers and hope it works.