The Mets were one of the league’s most active teams before the lockout, and a significant portion of their early-offseason work came in the outfield. Just hours after agreeing to terms with corner outfielder Mark Canha on a two-year deal, the Mets reached an accord with center fielder Starling Marte on a four-year pact.
Despite that ample activity, new manager Buck Showalter said he and general manager Billy Eppler haven’t ruled out the possibility of further additions. “[The outfield] is something we have talked about, where we are,” Showalter told reporters (including Mike Puma of the New York Post) at New York’s minor league camp this afternoon. “We are on the same page with everything where that is concerned. It’s a scenario that we are examining to see if we feel comfortable with it. We’re always going to look within first.”
That’s obviously well short of a declaration that the Mets definitely will add outfield help whenever the transactions freeze concludes. Yet it’s notable they’re at least keeping that door open despite plenty of in-house options. Canha seems the presumptive favorite for work in left field, while Marte looks likely to play center field. That’d push Brandon Nimmo to right, although the Mets incumbent center fielder doesn’t seem enamored with that alignment.
Speaking with Tim Healey of Newsday this week, Nimmo suggested he’d prefer to remain in center field. The 28-year-old pointed out that public metrics like Defensive Runs Saved and Statcast’s Outs Above Average both graded him as a plus there last season. It was Nimmo’s best defensive performance in the estimation of those statistics, and a marked improvement over his -5 DRS and -4 OAA from 2020. Nimmo suggested that uptick is evidence that “if you give me information, if you allow me to make the adjustments, I will give it everything I got. I was very, very proud of the difference in the numbers from ’20 to ’21 and doing what they asked me to do and improving there.”
Nimmo, who is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility, also acknowledged to Healey that playing center field could be an added bonus as he’s on track to hit free agency next winter. The former first-round pick said he’d be open to discussing an extension with the Mets after the lockout but said the team and his representatives at the Boras Corporation hadn’t begun those discussions in the first stages of the offseason.
Whether the Mets will oblige Nimmo’s desire to stick in center, of course, remains an open question. He’d have little recourse other to play a corner outfield spot if the Mets penciled him into the lineup there, and he tells Healey he’s willing to do whatever the team asks anyhow. Yet it’s clear from his comments that Nimmo values the opportunity to continue playing up the middle, so Showalter and his staff will need to determine how they want to arrange that group on a regular basis. Marte was an excellent left fielder earlier in his career, but he’s not started a single game outside of center since 2017. There’s little doubt he could successfully readapt to a corner spot if necessary, but the Mets may prefer their defensive alignment with Marte up the middle and Nimmo in a corner.
As Showalter suggested today, there’s also the possibility of additional changes from a personnel perspective. New York could look into further free agent or trade pickups, although it seems likelier those would be of a depth variety given the moves they’ve already made. The Mets also have a trio of high-profile trade candidates with corner outfield experience. Each of Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith has played left or right field in years past. They’d presumably be options to see some time out there again, but the Mets could look to move one or more members of that group after the lockout.