The Reds yesterday signed Fred Lewis to a one-year deal worth $900,000. This is a great signing for the Reds, but it will force the Mets to turn their attention elsewhere.
The NL Central defending champion Reds will sport an outfield comprised of the young stud Jay Bruce in right, exciting Drew Stubbs in center and fiery Jonny Gomes in left.
Stubbs and Gomes both bat right-handed, so Lewis should find a decent number of at-bats against tough righties. Also, Gomes doesn't exactly run well, so Lewis would be a valuable late-inning replacement in the field or on the basepaths.
The Reds also signed Jeremy Hermida to compete for the fourth outfielder job, but he will likely be relegated to more of an insurance policy now that the Reds brought in Lewis.
So with Lewis off the table, the Mets must search for another viable fourth outfielder option. Surprisingly, there are still some valuable pieces out there with a little over a month until spring training begins.
Of the bunch, a few names stand out. Laynce Nix served as the fourth outfielder for the Reds last season. He hit a solid .291 in 97 games and has played all three outfield positions over the course of his career.
He would be a relatively cheap option, but he has been known to be slightly injury prone.
Another option would be the veteran Randy Winn. The former All-Star is a shell of his former self and must realize that there is no opportunity for him to start out there. If he accepts the role of a switch-hitting fourth outfielder/pinch hitter, he could still benefit a team. He would also serve as a strong veteran presence on a team with some volatile personalities.
I've mentioned Reed Johnson already as a possibility. He may move into the forefront now that Lewis is off the market. Since the Mets right now basically don't have a bench, it is hard to tell whether they need a right-handed or left-handed bat. Johnson would be a productive right-handed bat, and he too can play anywhere in the outfield.
Scott Podsednik will probably hold out for a chance to start. Scott Hairston had an awful year last season, but could rebound. He reminds me of Reed Johnson, a guy who can play good defense, bats right-handed and won't wow anyone with his bat.
Lastings Milledge would be an interesting possibility. But how would he respond to a bench role? I think it would be wise to stay away from this headache.
So the options are still out there for the Mets, but they may have to act sooner rather than later to get the guy they want.