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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mets outfield: Generations

The average age of last night's starting corner outfielders was 30. That seems about right for a contending team trying to win now - two players still in or near the prime of their careers.

Oh, wait - actually it was a 40-year-old near the end of his career and a 20-year-old at the start of his.

But while the Mets lack the type of corner outfielder that becomes a lineup fixture, they should think twice before making a panic trade for another aging, overpriced player.

As someone who opposed the Sheffield signing, I have to concede that the Mets would have been in a lot of trouble without him over the last two weeks. Sheffield might be the Mets' second-most valuable player behind Johan Santana during that time (or third-most valuable if instant replay is eligible).

But in the long run, all I will concede on Sheffield is that he is near the end of his career rather than at the end. Even if Sheffield continues to be productive, what are the odds of him remaining healthy while asked to play the outfield fulltime for the first time since 2005?

Especially since the Mets' history with injuries seems to be to play players until they get hurt, then keep trying to play them.

As for Fernando Martinez, the track record on very young phenoms is not good. Martinez might be a star one day, but right away at age 20?

But the Mets have enough corner outfielders now that they might be able to get away with playing the hot hand. Daniel Murphy, Ryan Church and Fernando Tatis all had hot streaks before cooling off. All three, along with Angel Pagan, have track records of success from last year. Pagan was the starting left fielder in April 2008. Church was one of the Mets' best players in May 2008 before he got hurt. Tatis was the comeback player of the year. Murphy was the promising rookie who earned a fulltime job this spring.

Maybe none of these players should be playing fulltime, but that does not mean that they are worthless. Jerry Manuel sometimes seems to devalue his players - jerking them in and out of the lineup, benching or pinch-hitting for them for little reason.

Ryan Church and Daniel Murphy began the year in the starting lineup. Now Church is in the doghouse and Murphy could be headed back to the minors.

If these players ultimately do not figure in the Mets' longterm plans, the team should be trying to build up their value. Trading one of them now will get a lot less in return than it would have a few weeks ago.

Granted, it's a lot harder trying to find the hot hand at three slots, including first base, than two.

And with Jose Reyes on the shelf and Carlos Beltran out for a few days, the lineup is truly full of holes.

But Beltran will be back soon and Reyes presumably will be back at full strength within a week or two.

In the meantime, the Mets should keep doing what they finally started to do yesterday - DL the injured players so they can play with a full roster, add help on defense by picking up Wilson Valdez and give their top prospect a shot.

***

Squawker Lisa, here's a quickie quiz for you. Who is the only major-league pitcher with five wins in the month of May? Hint: He now has as many wins this month as he did in the last three years of his Yankee contract.

That's right - it's Carl Pavano!

Do the Mets need to make a big move for a corner outfielder or first baseman? Tell us what you think.

1 comment:

Ryan O said...

Haha, the answer to that same quiz in 5 years will be AJ Burnett.