Upton Trade, Hairston Signing Should Signal Panic Time for Mets

Lou CappettaAnalyst IIJanuary 25, 2013

Justin Upton would have been a perfect fit for the Mets, now he'll battle them 19 times a year.
Justin Upton would have been a perfect fit for the Mets, now he'll battle them 19 times a year.Ralph Freso/Getty Images

It was a long shot, indeed, but at least the Mets had a shot.

Anyone who thought the New York Mets were going to part with their young talent in an effort to acquire outfielder Justin Upton was probably kidding themselves, but with the Mets desperately needing outfield help, the lack of moves made this offseason and the relative cost effectiveness of Upton's contract, it wasn't completely ridiculous to think that the Sandy Alderson could sweep in at the last minute and make a deal.

Yes, it was a long shot, and now, after the Arizona Diamondbacks traded the 25-year-old star to the Atlanta Braves, the dream of Mets fans calling Citi Field's right field "Uptown" has no chance of happening.

The Mets will now have to see Justin Upton team up with his brother B.J. in the NL East, as the addition of both players has made Atlanta a viable playoff contender.

Adding insult to injury, Scott Hairston, who was easily the most productive outfielder the Mets had in 2012, and who many believed would re-sign with the team, signed a two-year contract with the Chicago Cubs yesterday.

If the season began today, the Mets would be trotting out an outfield in some form that consisted of Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mike Baxter, Lucas Duda and Jordanny Valdespin. Not one of those players is a starting major league outfielder, period, and the options for this team's Achilles heel to get better are quickly dwindling.

To be fair to the Mets' front office, there are viable reasons for the team to pass on some of the outfielders available this year.

Nobody expected Mets general manager Sandy Alderson to offer anyone a $100 million contract, especially someone with injury and addiction concerns, so Josh Hamilton was never an option. The Braves overpaid B.J. Upton, who, as his career continues to unfold, is looking like nothing more than the next Mike Cameron, so it's understandable why the Mets would pass on him.

Last year aside, Hairston has never proven that he could play everyday, and despite the fact that he seemed like a solid fall-back option for the Mets, anyone who remembers Bernard Gilkey should not have a problem with Sandy Alderson not paying for a one-year wonder.

While Justin Upton seemed to be a solid fit for the Mets—he's young, under contract and a bona fide five-tool player who finished fourth in the NL MVP voting at the tender age of 23—it's understandable that the Mets would not want to part with a huge chunk of prospects they expect to build around. That being said, it doesn't take away from the fact that the Mets currently have the worst outfield in the sport, and the options for improving it are getting slim.

Nothing the Mets do, or have done in recent memory, should surprise anyone, but it's very hard to believe that this team would allow the season to begin with this outfield. Lucky for the Mets, there is still one option available who makes too much sense to pass up.

Michael Bourn would be the perfect fit for the Mets. His defense and speed would not only be a perfect fit for Citi Field, but he's an accomplished leadoff hitter, another need the Mets have. Sure, he doesn't offer any pop, but he's a very solid anchor to build the outfield around.

Bourn's old team, the Atlanta Braves, are out of the picture, and now that his options are getting slimmer, just like the Mets', he may be had for a relatively reasonable price—say, maybe the $12 million or so the Mets saved by not extending R.A. Dickey.

Reportedly, the Mets have turned their attention to Bourn now that they have lost out on Hairston. It remains to be seen if this bit of news was put out there to appease the masses, or if Sandy Alderson's patient approach will prove to be fruitful for the Mets. 

Neither should surprise anyone when it comes to the Mets, even if Bourn seems to be the perfect fit for the Mets at this stage of the offseason. Regardless, the Mets' options are quickly vanishing, and while it may not be time for the Mets and their fans to panic just yet, should Bourn sign elsewhere, the Mets' probability for a dismal season will grow exponentially.