The Mets' Outfield Problems: Over 20 Years in the Making
The Mets' biggest offseason need by far is to sign or acquire a superstar outfielder. A right-handed hitting outfielder would be more preferable because the Mets already have quite a few left-handed hitters in their projected 2013 lineup. The Mets need this outfield upgrade because their outfield performed very poorly overall in 2012.
Scott Hairston was the Mets' only outfielder who had a good season overall this past year. Lucas Duda and Kirk Nieuwenhuis were both streaky at the plate, while Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin both struggled in part-time starting roles. As for Andres Torres and Jason Bay, they each had terrible seasons to make a long story short.
Some fans may think that the Mets' current outfield problems are rather new. After all, Carlos Beltran was the Mets' cornerstone center fielder for seven years from 2005-2011. Beltran though has been a very rare exception to a Mets outfield that has been a revolving door since 1989.
For the past 24 seasons (1989-2012), the Mets' outfield depth chart has changed very frequently. Some positions were more stable than others at times, but plenty of failed signings and trades led to new players getting opportunities. Some of those people even got opportunities they never deserved in the first place, which goes to show how bad the Mets' outfield has been since the 1980s.
The last time the Mets won a World Series championship was in 1986. That year, they had a very solid outfield, with Mookie Wilson in left field, Lenny Dykstra in center field and Darryl Strawberry in right. They also had two great pinch-hitting outfielders on the bench with Danny Heep and Lee Mazzilli.
If the Mets want to win another championship in the near future, a thoroughly solid outfield could possibly do the trick.
Here is a recap on exactly how bad the Mets outfield has been since the 1980s, through the eras of each general manager.
Frank Cashen Era Part 1 (1980-1988)
With the Mets struggling as much as they did from 1977-1979, huge changes were made in the Mets' front office that completely turned around the franchise.
First, in 1980, Fred Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday bought the Mets, with the help of Doubleday & Co. Six years later, Wilpon and Doubleday bought off Doubleday & Co. to become official co-owners of the Mets.
Then, Wilpon and Doubleday hired Frank Cashen to be the Mets' new general manager. Cashen had success in the past with the Orioles, so he was certainly qualified for the job.
As for the Mets outfield at the time, Cashen drafted Darryl Strawberry with the first overall pick in the 1980 MLB Draft. Strawberry got to the major leagues by 1983 and won the NL Rookie of the Year Award.
With Mookie Wilson was already entrenched in center field, Cashen completed the Mets' new outfield by trading for left fielder and former NL MVP George Foster prior to the 1982 season. Once Strawberry arrived, he, Wilson and Foster were a very durable group of outfielders in 1983 and 1984.
In 1985, Lenny Dykstra was brought up and spent a good chunk of the season as the center fielder. To accommodate his arrival, Wilson and Foster split time in left field.
In 1986, Foster's playing time decreased significantly thanks to Dykstra having a breakout season. Wilson was the regular left fielder and by late July, Foster had been released.
A year later, Kevin McReynolds was added through an offseason trade with the Padres and became the new left fielder from 1987-1991. Strawberry remained in right field through 1990. As for center field, Dykstra and Wilson split time there.
The Mets outfield remained very solid through 1987 and 1988 before Cashen ultimately decided to break apart the team he created.
Frank Cashen Era Part 2 (1989-1991)
In 1989 the Mets outfield initially fell apart. That year, Cashen decided to trade Dykstra in June to the Phillies for Juan Samuel, who had been an infielder throughout his career. The Mets though decided to make him their new center fielder. If that trade didn't sound bad enough, the Mets gave the Phillies Roger McDowell as well.
Less than two months later, Wilson was traded to the Blue Jays, while Mazzilli was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays. The Mets' outfield was not the same as Samuel batted just .228 with a .299 OBP after the trade. Cashen then tried to correct his mistake by dealing Samuel to the Dodgers for Mike Marshall and Alejandro Pena, which only led to new problems in other areas.
In 1990, the Mets filled their center field void by claiming Daryl Boston off waivers from the White Sox. Boston had a good season that year with a .273 average, 12 home runs and 45 RBI, but unfortunately made headlines in off-field news.
In 1991, the Mets were forced to deal with the loss of Strawberry, who departed as a free agent and signed with the Dodgers. As a result, Cashen replaced one superstar with another by signing Vince Coleman to a four-year contract.
Coleman became the new center fielder, but was not the same player he once was with the Cardinals. From 1991-1993, Coleman missed a lot of time with various injuries and suspensions.
His temper and reckless off-field behavior got the best of him, with the final straw occurring when he threw a firecracker into a parking lot near Dodger Stadium. He never played again for the Mets after that.
Cashen also brought back Hubie Brooks to be the new right fielder. Brooks was the Mets' third baseman in the early 1980s, but was traded away once Howard Johnson and Ray Knight were acquired.
Brooks struggled in his new role, with a .238 average, 16 home runs and 50 RBI. Thanks to his poor performance, he was traded to the Angels in the offseason for backup outfielder Dave Gallagher. The man who made that trade though was not Cashen.
Cashen retired after the 1991 season and passed the reins to one of his top assistants, Al Harazin. The Mets' 1991 season and recent outfield trades were not good at all, but with Harazin calling the shots, it got a whole lot worse.
Al Harazin Era (1992-1993)
Immediately after his promotion, Harazin opened up his checkbook and gave Bobby Bonilla a record five-year $29 million contract. Despite the solid numbers he put up overall, they were not at the same level of his numbers with the Pirates.
But what made Bonilla's time with the Mets so bad were all the distractions he presented.
In 1992, Bonilla once called the press box to complain about getting charged with an error. A year later, he threatened to fight sports writer Bob Klapisch after the book The Worst Team Money Could Buy came out, which represented the Mets' awful 1992 season.
After two years in right field, Bonilla was moved to third base in 1994. In 1995, he split time between the two positions before finally getting traded away at the trade deadline.
Harazin then traded McReynolds, along with Gregg Jefferies and Keith Miller to the Royals for Bret Saberhagen and Bill Pecota. The outfield depth chart was changed even further when longtime pinch-hitter Mark Carreon was dealt to the Tigers.
Newly hired manager Jeff Torborg decided to put Howard Johnson as the Mets' new center fielder. This experiment did not work and lasted through just the 1992 season. He was moved back to third base for his final Mets season in 1993.
Late in the 1992 season, Harazin decided to trade popular pitcher David Cone to the Blue Jays for Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson. Thompson soon became the Mets' everyday center fielder in 1993 and 1994, but failed to live up to expectations.
Thompson never batted higher than .250 as a Met and had just a .300 OBP through four seasons. He rarely walked and struck out often, but had 18 home runs and 59 RBI in 1994. Nonetheless, he was just another young outfield bust for the struggling Mets.
In 1993, the Mets replaced Daryl Boston, who signed with the expansion Rockies, with Joe Orsulak. Orsulak was an average outfielder. He did not walk or strike out much, and also did not possess particularly good power or speed. Nonetheless, he had a .276 average and a .319 OBP in his three seasons as a Met, while finding time in all three outfield positions.
Harazin though did not make it through the 1993 season that saw the Mets lose over 100 games for the first time since the 1960s. He resigned in June and was replaced by another former Mets assistant in Joe McIlvaine.
Joe McIlvaine Era Part 1 (1993-1995)
McIlvaine did the best he could to pick up the pieces and began with trading Vince Coleman to the Royals in exchange for Kevin McReynolds, who spent the final season of his career with the Mets in 1994.
The Mets' regular 1994 outfield included McReynolds, Ryan Thompson and Joe Orsulak. However, Jeromy Burnitz, John Cangelosi and Jim Lindeman all found a good amount of playing time in the outfield during the strike-shortened season. Those three didn't play for the Mets after 1994. Lindeman retired, while Cangelosi was released midseason and Burnitz was traded to the Indians in the following offseason.
By 1995, the Mets' outfield was getting younger and younger. McIlvaine traded prospect Quilvio Veras to the Marlins for a young Carl Everett. Everett became the Mets' Opening Day right fielder in 1995 and had a great month in April. But after a poor May, he was sent to the minor leagues. He got recalled in August though and hit well for the rest of the season.
After a poor 1996 season, Everett bounced back in 1997 while spending time in both center field and right field. Despite a .250 average within three seasons, Everett had a .326 OBP and led the Mets in 1997 with 17 stolen bases.
Unfortunately, in August of 1997, Shea Stadium daycare worker noticed bruises on Everett's children. This led to Everett and his wife losing custody of their kids temporarily and Everett getting traded the following offseason to the Astros.
McIlvaine also upgraded the Mets' bench by signing reserve outfielder Chris Jones, who batted .400 as a pinch-hitter in 1995. Then, right before the season started, he signed center fielder Brett Butler. Butler's time with the Mets was short though because he got traded to the Dodgers the following August.
First baseman David Segui found himself in the outfield in 1995 due to the emergence of Rico Brogna, but was not happy about it. He played poorly and was dealt to the Expos in June.
After the various deadline deals were made, new outfielders such as Damon Buford and Alex Ochoa got some playing time down the stretch. Buford was traded after the season to the Rangers, while Ochoa remained a backup outfielder through the 1997 season before getting traded to the Twins for fellow outfield bust Rich Becker.
Joe McIlvaine Era Part 2 (1996-1997)
In 1996, the Mets outfield looked completely different. McIlvaine signed Lance Johnson to become the new center fielder, and then traded for left fielder Bernard Gilkey a month later. Both ended up having amazing seasons in 1996.
Johnson batted .333 with nine home runs, 69 RBI, 117 runs scored, 227 hits, 31 doubles, 21 triples, 50 stolen bases, 327 total bases and a .362 OBP in 160 games. His performance resulted in him starting for the National League in the 1996 MLB All-Star Game, due to an injury to Tony Gwynn.
In 1997, Johnson got off to another fast start, but missed over a month with shin splints. Despite batting .309 by August, Johnson was traded to the Cubs with Mark Clark and Manny Alexander for Brian McRae, Mel Rojas and Turk Wendell.
Johnson did not get along with new manager Bobby Valentine particularly well, which could have been a contributing factor. Nonetheless, Johnson's injuries caught up with him and he declined following the trade.
As for Gilkey, he batted .317 with 30 home runs, 117 RBI, 108 runs scored, 44 doubles, a .393 OBP and a .562 slugging percentage. He certainly made the most of his contract season, which landed him a new four-year $20 million contract with the Mets. However, Gilkey did not play as well after signing his new contract.
Gilkey batted just .249 with 18 home runs and 78 RBI in 1997, but then hit very poorly in 1998 with a .227 average, four home runs and 28 RBI by late July, which ultimately led to him being traded to the Diamondbacks. Gilkey's career was never the same after 1996.
Stationed in right field was Butch Huskey. Huskey was a natural third baseman, but due to a surplus of talented Mets infielders, the Mets put him in right field mostly due to his bat.
Right field though was an adventure for Huskey at times, but in June, first baseman Rico Brogna had a season-ending injury. As a result, Huskey spent most of the second half of the 1996 season at first base, with more natural outfielders like Everett and Ochoa splitting time in right field.
In 1997, the outfield looked more or less the same, although Everett got a lot of playing time in center field in May when Lance Johnson got sidelined with shin splints. In August though, Johnson got traded in a six player-deal that netted fellow center fielder Brian McRae, among others.
McRae immediately stepped in as the new everyday center fielder, through the rest of the 1997 season, all of 1998 and most of 1999 until he got traded to the Rockies at the deadline. During his time as a Met, McRae had a great season in 1998 with 21 home runs, 79 RBI and 20 stolen bases from the leadoff spot.
With Gilkey and Johnson not putting up the same numbers they did a season ago, it was Huskey who stepped up in 1997. The big right fielder batted .287 with 24 home runs and 81 RBI in what turned out to be the best season of his career.
Also in July of 1997, the Mets made an even bigger change by replacing general manager Joe McIlvaine with his assistant Steve Phillips. By then, the Mets were become more and more of a postseason contender.
Steve Phillips Era Part 1 (1997-2000)
Steve Phillips' first trade as the Mets' new general manager in 1997 saw the popular Lance Johnson get traded to the Cubs. In the following offseason, he shook up the Mets' outfield depth even further by dealing away Carl Everett to the Astros and Alex Ochoa to the Twins for outfielder Rich Becker. Becker was the Mets' fourth outfielder in the first few months of the 1998 season, but he hit poorly and was gone by June.
1998 saw quite a few more changes to the Mets' outfield personnel. Bernard Gilkey began the year in left field, but struggled mightily at the plate and battled injuries early in the season. By early July, he was benched in favor of Todd Hundley, who returned from the disabled list as a left fielder due to the new presence of Mike Piazza behind the plate.
While Gilkey was finally traded to the Diamondbacks near the trade deadline, Hundley did not play well at all in left field and became a backup catcher for the remainder of the season.
Utility man Lenny Harris and trade deadline pickup Tony Phillips also spent quite a bit of time patrolling left field for the Mets that year. In right field, Butch Huskey was expected to lead the Mets offense during Hundley's time on the disabled list.
However, Huskey spent some time himself on the disabled list and regressed at the plate. With just 13 home runs and 59 RBI that season, the Mets gave up on him and traded him to the Mariners in the offseason.
With the exception of Brian McRae, the Mets had a new outfield once again in 1999. Veteran Rickey Henderson was signed to be the new left fielder and Bobby Bonilla was curiously acquired from the Dodgers to play right field.
While Henderson led the Mets that year with a .315 average to go along with a .423 OBP, 30 doubles and 37 stolen bases, Bonilla played poorly in the beginning of the season and got very little playing time in the second half.
Taking Bonilla's spot in right field was Roger Cedeno, who the Mets had acquired in a separate deal with the Dodgers. Cedeno batted .313 with a career high 66 stolen bases. He proved his value well enough to be traded to the Astros in the following offseason in the trade that brought Mike Hampton and Derek Bell to the Mets.
Also in 1999, Benny Agbayani made a name for himself with 14 home runs that year in just 276 at-bats, which included a great start to his season. Agbayani split time in left field and right field in a part-time role, but eventually became the Mets' everyday left fielder in 2000.
Agbayani provided some great moments including a game-winning home run in Game 3 of the 2000 NLDS. However, he battled injuries in 2001 and was traded to the Rockies after that season.
At the 1999 trade deadline, the Mets parted ways with McRae and got another center fielder in Darryl Hamilton. Hamilton hit .339 down the stretch in 1999 as the new everyday center fielder. He also batted .353 in the NLCS that year. A sprained foot though limited him to just 43 games in 2000. Another injury in 2001 led to Hamilton appearing in just 52 games that year and hitting poorly before getting released that July.
In 2000, the Mets underwent yet another outfield makeover.Bonilla got released, and Derek Bell became the new right fielder. After Hamilton's April injury, rookie Jay Payton became the new center fielder and had a great year.
Payton had battled injuries in 1998 and 1999 before finally staying healthy in 2000. He hit .291 with 17 home runs and 62 RBI that year and finished in the top five for the 2000 NL Rookie of the Year voting.
Steve Phillips Era Part 2 (2001-2003)
Before the 2001 season, the Mets continued to make outfield changes. Derek Bell left as a free agent in favor of the Pirates, while Bubba Trammell was traded to the Padres for reliever Donne Wall.
The Mets then signed Japanese import Tsuyoshi Shinjo. Shinjo found time in all three outfield positions in 2001 and batted .268 with 10 home runs and 56 RBI. He was well known for his high leg kick and his distinctive orange wristbands. The Mets traded Shinjo and infielder Desi Relaford to the Giants for Shawn Estes the following offseason, but then re-signed him in 2003. Shinjo's second stint was brief and not as successful.
The 2001 Mets outfield overall was similar to 2000, but did not perform as well.
Agbayani and Payton battled injuries for parts of the season, while the trade deadline arrival of Matt Lawton did not have a particularly good impact on the Mets. It was also unpopular to most because the Mets had sent popular pitcher Rick Reed to the Twins in exchange.
By 2002, the Mets' outfield was completely different and much older. Agbayani was dealt to the Rockies in one of Steve Phillips' many major trades that offseason. He then traded for Brewers outfielder Jeromy Burnitz, who had been drafted through the Mets system and played for the Mets in 1993 and 1994.
This older version of Burnitz though hit home runs here and there, but struck out way too often to be considered productive. Burnitz had a good enough start to his 2003 season to get traded to the Dodgers in June of that year.
The Mets also brought back Roger Cedeno in a move that the Mets would regret. Unlike his great breakout season in 1999, Cedeno did not possess the same speed and hitting as before. He struggled at the plate and eventually battled weight issues.
After two poor seasons in 2002 and 2003, Cedeno was traded to the Cardinals just before the beginning of the 2004 season. The Mets though had to take on most of Cedeno's remaining salary.
With Burnitz and Cedeno struggling in 2002, Perez batted .295. Payton also got off to a good start and was batting .284 before getting traded to the Rockies at the deadline. Other Mets outfielders that got noticeable playing time that year included McEwing, Tony Tarasco and Raul Gonzalez.
In 2003, Steve Phillips began his last stand by signing left fielder Cliff Floyd to a four-year contract. Floyd battled injuries for most of his Mets career, but in the one healthy season he had in 2005, he hit 34 home runs and drove in 98 RBI.
Phillips got fired on June 12, 2003 after the Mets got off to a poor start. He was replaced by his assistant Jim Duquette.
Jim Duquette Era (2003-2004)
Upon his promotion in June of 2003, Jim Duquette made a lot of moves to correct some of the expensive mistakes that Steve Phillips previously made.
Among the moves he made regarding outfielders included trading Jeromy Burnitz to the Dodgers a month after his promotion and then signing center fielder Mike Cameron in the following offseason.
Cameron was well known for his great defense, but also for striking out a lot. Despite batting just .231 and striking out 143 times in 2004, Cameron led the Mets that year with 30 home runs and also drove in 76 RBI.
In 2005, Cameron was shifted to right field after the Mets signed Carlos Beltran. He raised his average to .273 and had 12 home runs and 39 RBI in 76 games.
However, he missed the first month of that season, plus the last two months after suffering a head-on collision with Beltran in August. The Mets then knew that Cameron as a right fielder would not work out, so they traded him to the Padres for Xavier Nady the next offseason.
Duquette also signed former Yankees outfielders Shane Spencer and Karim Garcia, but both ended up making more off-field headlines than on-field headlines during their short stays.
Before the 2004 season began, Duquette dealt Timo Perez to the White Sox and Roger Cedeno to the Cardinals. The following June, he traded Dave Weathers and Jeremy Griffiths to the Astros for Richard Hidalgo. Hidalgo blasted 10 home runs in July but did not hit as well in the last two months of the season and signed with the Rangers in 2005.
Former Braves outfielder Gerald Williams also got a fair share of playing time for the Mets in 2004 and 2005.
As for Duquette, he was fired after the 2004 season and replaced another former Mets assistant general manager in Omar Minaya.
Omar Minaya Era Part 1 (2005-2007)
Minaya instantly improved the Mets by signing Carlos Beltran to a seven-year contract.
Beltran underachieved in his first season as a Met in 2005 by batting .266 with just 16 home runs and 78 RBI. The collision he had with Cameron in San Diego did not help as well. However, in 2006, Beltran returned to being a superstar outfielder and much more.
Beltran's 2006 season became one of the best single seasons in Mets history. Despite a .275 average, he tied the Mets single season record of 41 home runs (originally set by Todd Hundley in 1996) and drove in 116 RBI. He also set a new Mets' single season record with 127 runs scored and contributed 38 doubles, 95 walks, 18 stolen bases, 303 total bases, a .388 OBP and a .594 slugging percentage.
He led the Mets to their first division championship since 1988 and first postseason appearance in six years.
In the 2006 postseason, Beltran had two hits in nine at-bats in the NLDS, but then batted .296 with three home runs and four RBI in the NLCS. Unfortunately, it was his final at-bat of that series that fans would remember most. He took a called third strike on a curveball from Adam Wainwright as the Cardinals won the NL pennant that year.
Beltran returned in 2007 with another big season that included a .276 average, 33 home runs and 112 RBI. He posted similar numbers again in 2008 with a .284 average, 27 home runs and 112 RBI. He also hit the final Mets home run in Shea Stadium history that year.
His defense from 2006-2008 was just as good as his hitting. As a result, Beltran won two NL Silver Slugger Awards in 2006 and 2007 and three consecutive NL Gold Glove Awards from 2006-2008.
Beltran's 2009 season got off to a great start with a .325 average, 10 home runs and 48 RBI until he had a knee injury in June that ended his season. He did not return until the second half of the 2010 season. By then, Beltran had a balky knee and did not have the same mobility as before. He struggled at the plate that year with a .255 average, seven home runs and 27 RBI.
In the walk year of his contract in 2011, Beltran redeemed himself with a .289 average, 15 home runs and 66 RBI before getting traded to the Giants in late July for pitching prospect Zack Wheeler.
As a Met, Beltran batted .280 with 149 home runs, 559 RBI, a .369 OBP and a .500 slugging percentage. He was certainly the one notable exception to the Mets' constant outfield changes in the last 20 years.
Omar Minaya Era Part 2 (2005-2007)
Sure, Beltran was a cornerstone player for the Mets from 2005-2011, but there were other Mets outfielders that had some success during that time.
In 2005, Cliff Floyd had his best season as a Met with a .273 average, 34 home runs, and 98 RBI. He did not hit as well in 2006 though and battled injuries that year.
With Mike Cameron missing a good portion of the 2005 season due to injuries, Victor Diaz got more playing time than expected. In 280 at-bats, Diaz batted .257 with 12 home runs and 38 RBI. Diaz though only had a few at-bats in 2006 and was traded to the Dodgers later that year for Mike Nickeas.
In 2006, the new right fielder was Xavier Nady, who was acquired for Mike Cameron. In 75 games, Nady batted .264 with 14 home runs and 40 RBI before unexpectedly getting dealt to the Pirates after Duaner Sanchez's taxi cab incident.
Replacing Nady in right field was the veteran Shawn Green, who was clearly well past his prime, but still hit decently and played great defense.
Green batted .257 after the trade with four home runs and 15 RBI. He also batted .333 and .304 in the 2006 NLDS and NLCS, respectively. Green's 2007 season though was more of a disappointment. Despite batting .291 and hitting 30 doubles, Green only had 10 home runs and 46 RBI, which were a far cry to the numbers he put up in his prime. He retired after the 2007 season.
Due to all the injuries the Mets outfield suffered, Endy Chavez got a lot more playing time than expected. Originally expected to be a defensive replacement for Floyd, and later Moises Alou, Chavez ended up playing 133 games in 2006. He batted .306 that year with four home runs and 42 RBI in an unlikely role.
Injuries limited Chavez's 2007 season to just 71 games, but in 2008, Chavez played a lot as well. He batted .267 that year and was not as productive at the plate, but his defense was still well above average and it helped the Mets stay in contention all season.
After the 2008 season, Chavez was traded to the Mariners in the deal that landed the Mets J.J. Putz.
Chavez though will always be known for the amazing catch he made in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS in which he made an amazing catch to rob Scott Rolen of a home run. The Mets unfortunately lost that game, but Chavez's catch will never be forgotten as well.
Another outfielder that got a good amount of playing time in 2006 and 2007 was Lastings Milledge. The once-highly touted prospect did not live up to expectations and hit .241 with four home runs and 22 RBI.
In 2007, Milledge played slightly better with a .272 average, seven home runs and 29 RBI. However, he made headlines with the release of a hip-hop song that the family-friendly Mets were not in favor of. After the 2007 season, Milledge was traded to the Nationals for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.
In 2007, the Mets replaced one veteran in Cliff Floyd with an even older veteran in Moises Alou. Despite having a 30-game hitting streak at the end of the 2007 season that set a new Mets record, Alou's time with the Mets from 2007-2008 was marred with injuries.
Alou missed over two months of the 2007 season with a quadriceps injury. In 2008, after the Mets unwisely picked up his option, Alou injured his calf in May that ultimately ended not just his season, but his career.
Yet another outfielder that got a lot of playing time in 2007 was Carlos Gomez. Gomez showed potential with his speed, but also struck out a lot and did not draw many walks. He was traded to the Twins after the 2007 season in the trade that brought Johan Santana to the Mets.
Omar Minaya Era Part 3 (2008-2010)
2008 saw a new crop of Mets outfielders alongside Carlos Beltran and Endy Chavez. New right fielder Ryan Church had a great first half to his season despite getting a concussion in Spring Training that year.
Church batted .319 in April and .299 in May before suffering another concussion on May 20 after Yunel Escobar slid into him in a game against the Braves.
Soon enough, Church was placed on the disabled list with post-concussion symptoms and missed over three months before returning in September. He ended the year batting .276 with 12 home runs and 49 RBI. He also made the final out in Shea Stadium history.
In 2009, Church was batting .280 with two home runs and 22 RBI before getting traded to the Braves for Jeff Francoeur that July.
Another big outfield pickup in 2008 was veteran Fernando Tatis. Tatis that year batted .297 with 11 home runs and 47 RBI in 92 games. He injured his shoulder and missed the last few weeks of the season after making a diving catch. However, he also won the 2008 NL Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Tatis then spent 2009 and part of 2010 with the Mets as a utility player. He batted .282 with eight home runs and 48 RBI in 2009 and played mostly first base and left field. However, he hit poorly in 2010 with just a .185 average, two home runs and six RBI. He did not play in another game after July 4 of that year.
In late 2008, Daniel Murphy got called up and played well in left field by batting .313 with two home runs and 17 RBI in 131 at-bats. However, after playing so poorly in left field in 2009, the Mets moved Murphy back to the infield for good. He is now the Mets' everyday second baseman.
Nick Evans and Angel Pagan both got a decent amount of playing time in the outfield in 2008 as well. Evans batted .257 that year with two home runs and nine RBI, while Pagan hit .275 early in the season before a shoulder injury ended his year in May.
In 2009, the Mets outfield became a revolving door. Beltran and Pagan both suffered various injuries that kept them off the field for over half the season, while Church got traded for Francoeur in July. Francoeur stepped in and had arguably the best offensive season of any Mets hitter that year.
As a Met, Francoeur batted .311 with10 home runs and 41 RBI in 2009. Francoeur was well known for his defense and his very strong throwing arm in particular. At the plate though, despite his power, Francoeur was also known for his high number of strikeouts and lack of drawing walks.
In 2010, Francoeur batted .237 with 11 home runs and 54 RBI before getting traded to the Rangers late in the season for Joaquin Arias. After Beltran was activated from the disabled list, it soon became inevitable that Francoeur was going to get traded.
Veteran Gary Sheffield was signed just days before the 2009 season began and hit his 500th career home run, which was also his first home run as a Met. He batted .276 with 10 home runs and 43 RBI that year in a part-time role.
Sheffield though got more playing time than expected due to all the injuries the Mets suffered and was actually one of their most productive hitters that year. He did not get signed by any team in 2010 and subsequently retired in 2011.
Jeremy Reed became the Mets' new version of Endy Chavez in 2009. He at first was a defensive replacement, but got more playing time than he should have due to injuries. Reed batted .242, did not hit much at all, and made a costly throwing error in one of his rare appearances at first base. Acquired in the J.J. Putz trade, he was not re-signed by the Mets after 2009.
The Mets' injury bug in 2009 also led to journeyman outfielder Cory Sullivan getting more playing time down the stretch than expected. Sullivan though hit poorly with a .250 average, two home runs and 15 RBI.
Top prospect Fernando Martinez also got called up that year, but struggled mightily at the plate with a .176 average, one home run and eight RBI. Plagued by injuries during most of his minor league career, it was no surprise when Martinez missed the last three months of the season with a knee injury.
Martinez would appear in seven games for the Mets in 2010 and 11 more in 2011 before being placed on waivers. The Astros claimed him and he spent the 2012 season in Houston.
After the 2009 season and the Mets' particular struggles in left field, Omar Minaya began his last stand by signing Jason Bay to a four-year $66 million contract. Bay unfortunately turned out to be one of the biggest busts in Mets history. Across three seasons from 2010-2012, Bay batted .234 with 26 home runs and 124 RBI. The home run and RBI numbers he put up were initially expected of him per season, but as a Met, Bay just never really found a groove at the plate.
The Mets ended up releasing Bay after the 2012 season while still paying him the full amount owed to him in 2013.
With Carlos Beltran set to miss the first half of the 2010 season, the Mets' Opening Day outfield consisted of Bay, Francouer and veteran Gary Matthews Jr. Matthews though hit just .190 in 58 at-bats before being benched and then released by June. Pagan took his place in center field and had a breakout season with a .290 average, 11 home runs and 69 RBI. He also added 31 doubles, 37 stolen bases, and a .340 OBP.
After hitting .306 with with six home runs and 32 RBI in 2009 within just 88 games, Pagan proved what he could do when healthy for a full season in 2010. Pagan though did not hit as well in 2011 with a .262 average, seven home runs and 56 RBI. He got traded the following offseason to the Giants for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez.
Other notable outfielders from 2010 include Chris Carter and Jesus Feliciano. Carter was best known for his pinch-hitting, although he made 30 starts in the outfield. Carter batted .263 with four home runs and 24 RBI. Feliciano was a minor league journeyman that finally got a shot to play in the major leagues with the Mets. However, he batted .231 with three RBI in 108 at-bats.
The end of the 2010 season also meant the end of the Omar Minaya era for the Mets. Both Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel were fired from their positions and replaced by Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins, respectively.
Sandy Alderson Era (2011-Present)
Upon his hiring, Alderson did not make significant changes to the Mets outfield before the 2011 season. He signed Scott Hairston and Willie Harris to add depth on the bench and also claimed Jason Pridie from waivers.
With Jason Bay's struggles continuing, and Pagan not hitting as well as he did in 2010, the Mets' outfield carried by a familiar face in Beltran. However, Alderson made his first major trade in July by sending Beltran to the Giants for Zack Wheeler.
It was a bittersweet moment for Mets fans that got to see Beltran play as well as he did, but he was aging and the move turned out to benefit the Mets a lot more than the Giants.
The Mets also brought up Lucas Duda to be the right fielder for part of the season. In just 301 at-bats, Duda batted .292 with ten home runs and 50 RBI. However, he also spent some time at first base due to Ike Davis' injury.
In 2012 though, he was a full time outfielder, but did not hit as well with a .239 average, 15 home runs and 57 RBI in 401 at-bats. After struggling in July, Duda was demoted to the minor leagues before getting recalled in late August.
In 2012, the Mets Opening Day outfield consisted of Bay, Duda and Andres Torres, who had been acquired from the Giants with Ramon Ramirez for Pagan in the offseason. However, Torres injured his calf on Opening Day, which led to prospect Kirk Nieuwenhuis getting called up sooner than expected.
Nieuwenhuis hit very well for the first three months of the season and still played regularly even after Torres was healthy. However, after a big slump in July, Nieuwenhuis was demoted to the minor leagues and shortly after injured his foot, which ended his season. He batted .252 with seven home runs and 28 RBI overall.
As for Torres, his defense was steady, but he had a very poor season at the plate with a .230 average, three home runs and 35 RBI. He was expected to be a productive leadoff hitter with his speed, but only had 13 stolen bases.Torres was non-tendered this offseason.
The big surprise though was the season that Scott Hairston had. After batting .235 with seven home runs and 24 RBI in 2011, Hairston elevated his game with a .263 average, 20 home runs and 57 RBI in 134 games. He was by far the Mets' most productive outfielder in 2012 and could possibly return to the Mets in 2013 if a multi-year contract is worked out.
Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin both had a good amount of playing time in the outfield as well this past season. Baxter batted .263 with three home runs and 17 RBI and hit even better as a pinch-hitter, while Valdespin batted .241 with eight home runs (including five as a pinch-hitter, which set a new Mets record) and 26 RBI in a utility role.
Looking forward into 2013, the Mets will likely have Duda and Nieuwenhuis in their outfield. As for right now, Baxter is projected to be the right fielder, unless the Mets re-sign Hairston or sign another free agent or make a trade for a new right fielder. If that happens, Baxter will remain the fourth outfielder and Valdespin could be on the bench again as well.
The Mets have certainly made many different outfield changes in the past 20-25 years, as shown in the previous slides. Since 1990, Carlos Beltran has been the only Mets' starting outfielder for more than five years. This shows how badly the Mets had failed to find long-term solutions in their outfield over the years.
Some of these outfielders had great seasons, and some just had one or two great seasons as a Met.
Others though struggled a lot and did not live up to their expectations at all. Various moves and decisions of all kinds were made in these years and the lack of success from them has been more or less on par with the Mets' failure to be a consistent postseason contender since the 1980s.
Hopefully the Mets will be able to either sign a proven superstar to a big contract or draft and develop a young superstar outfielder that could become a fixture like David Wright has at third base.
The Mets right now are hoping Duda and Nieuwenhuis both develop further and play better in 2013. How long both will last in the Mets' outfield is currently unknown, but it would be nice to see the Mets' outfield not go through as many changes as it has in over 20 years.
Most significantly though, these facts prove that the Mets' problems in the outfield are not recent by any means. These problems have existed much longer than most fans may have noticed and hopefully, some will now realize how much of a disaster (with Beltran being a notable exception) the Mets outfield has really been since the 1980s.
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