Barring an injury within the next few days, the New York Mets will soon face the conundrum in the outfield they’ve been expecting since the start of spring training but haven’t yet had to deal with. Center fielder Juan Lagares is eligible to come off the DL on Wednesday, and after already playing in two minor league rehab games he should be activated some time during the team’s weekend series with the Colorado Rockies. At that point the Mets will have four outfield candidates and only three spots in which to put them.
Lagares was the Mets’ best offensive player during the first two weeks of the season, so it would be foolish not to play him every day once he returns from the DL. Even if he doesn’t produce offensively at the same rate he was early in the season, his defense is too important to leave off the field, especially with defense playing such a key role in the Mets’ recent winning.
With Lagares back in the lineup, Terry Collins will have to take Eric Young Jr., Chris Young or Curtis Granderson out of the lineup. Based on performance, Granderson deserves to be the one removed from the lineup. However, he has shown signs over the last week of coming out of his slump, and one month of struggling isn’t enough for the Mets to give up on their $60 million offseason signing.
That leaves either Young or Young Jr. to be the one removed from the lineup. Young is off to a slow start since returning from a stint on the DL, but the Mets promised him regular at bats when they signed him this offseason. He’s hit two home runs in the past four games, so he’s going to need more of an opportunity before the Mets relegate him to the bench.
Young Jr. will be tough to take out of the lineup, as he’s the Mets only true leadoff hitter and at times he’s provided the team with a spark. But he has far too many strikeouts for a leadoff hitter and his OBP of .320 is still below the target of .350 that Collins set for him at the start of the season. It may be worthwhile to take Young Jr. out of the lineup when Lagares comes back, as it will send a message to him that he needs to strikeout less and get on base more, while also giving Young and Granderson a chance to get going.
Whatever Collins decides, it’ll be tough to take any of the Mets’ four outfielders out of the lineup, but it’s a conundrum that the Mets will face when Lagares returns from the DL later this week. If Collins chooses the wrong player to take out of the lineup, it could hinder the recent string of wins the Mets have put together.