The New York Mets have had a rough time of it over the last few years and nothing has seemed to go right. They have an aging outfielder who's still owed a ton of money in the final year of his contract who doesn't seem to be holding up.
Carlos Beltran made the right team decision when he announced he was moving to right field after being a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder for his entire career, but now he's having more knee issues. Only this time, it's his left knee instead of his surgically-repaired right one.
A few days ago, Beltran felt left knee discomfort when scoring from second base during a Mets spring game. He said on Wednesday that his knee is feeling better, but what is that supposed to mean? We've all seen this same movie before and the same things were said about his right knee during 2009. That eventually led to his pre-2010 season surgery and he missed half a season.
He still wasn't feeling 100 percent getting ready to play in the outfield this spring at his new position with the other knee being a slight issue, which leaves some doubt in people's minds that Beltran could be healthy for a full season.
The plan this spring for the Mets was to limit Beltran's outfield playing time early on and have him play some designated hitter. When it was found out that he developed left knee tendinitis, the Mets were to shut him down for some time. They hope he can resume playing after the team's off-day on Monday.
If Beltran can't play, who should be the Mets right fielder?
So, although Beltran participated in baseball activities on Wednesday and should be back soon, would they be able to survive without him in right field? Even though the worst is always thought of amongst Mets fans, the answer is probably that they could.
They signed some guys in the offseason and they have a young player that's having a good spring training so far. Perhaps thinking that Beltran could be a health issue this season, the Mets added depth by signing veterans Scott Hairston and Willie Harris in the offseason. Neither player has a great bat, but they both hit 10 home runs last season and almost had identical numbers across the board.
The more important thing is, the Mets would have guys who can field the ball and errors have been an issue for the Mets over the years. Even when Beltran is playing, he can always be substituted late in close games for one of the aforementioned players.
The most valuable of the two could be Harris. If you're a Mets fan, you know what Harris can do with his glove—and with his bat when facing the Mets. He has made three career highlight-reel plays to rob the Mets of game-winning or game-tying hits in the ninth inning, with the last one being at Citi Field last April against Rod Barajas.
Harris' role on the team will most likely be pinch-running and being a late-game defensive replacement. Mets manager Terry Collins has already said this spring that Harris' role would be just that.
Hairston on the other hand, can be a fourth-outfielder type and get the majority of the starts in right field when Beltran is hurt or needs a game off.
The other option the Mets may have in right field is the young Lucas Duda. He came up in September of last season and got off to a terrible start before finishing very strong. He started his career in a 1-for-34 slump but then finished the season batting .314 (16-for-51), with four home runs, and 12 RBI.
This spring, he's impressed by batting .296 in 27 at-bats (second-highest on the team) and on Wednesday hit his first home run. He could have such a good spring that he beats out either Hairston or Harris for a fifth-outfielder spot. If that happens, don't be surprised to see him get playing time in right field if Beltran can't play.
The Mets, knowing this is Beltran's final season with the team—if not final months—need to start auditioning some youngsters if they can, like Duda, to see if they have a future right fielder in the organization.
The bottom line is, Beltran may not be able to do it anymore in the outfield and that would be too bad for him, but the Mets certainly have enough depth to fill the void. The Mets have many problems and the right field situation should be far down on the list.