To the dismay of many fans, free agency has slowed down in Mets land. The Mets may need to explore options in center field if they can’t get George Springer. With news heating up around the National League, the Mets seem to be the odd-man-out. While the team is still listed as a top contender for many marquee free agents, there were reports that the Mets and George Springer were not close in contract talks. According to SNY, Springer is asking for a contract that is over $150 million in value. The Mets are yet to reach that number in negotiations. If the Mets are unable to land Springer, who is the top free-agent outfielder on the market, they would need to have other options to fill his spot.
Option 1: Jackie Bradley Jr., Red Sox
When exploring the free-agent market, the Mets will have three other solid options outside of Springer. The first is Jackie Bradley Jr. of the Boston Red Sox. An excellent defensive center fielder, Bradley covers a lot of ground in the outfield. Bradley Jr. had +5 defensive runs saved last year. He had +15 defensive runs saved in 2017 and +14 in 2016. One knock on his game is his offense. Bradley is a career .239 hitter through 873 big league games. He’s obviously a big downgrade from Springer, but his 118 OPS+ last year could bode well for the Mets. Bradley would be a cheaper option than Springer, but obviously, not as effective.
Option 2: Enrique Hernandez, Dodgers
The next best option is Enrique Hernandez, who has spent the last six seasons with the Dodgers. Hernandez is known as a major utility guy, playing every single position besides catcher over his career. (He pitched ⅓ of an inning in an extra-inning game and took the loss.) Hernandez is not an amazing player, a career .240 hitter with a little pop in his bat. For someone who plays all over the diamond, he’s sound defensively in center field. In 2019, Hernandez had +4 defensive runs saved in around 135 innings played in center field. His worst year was in 2017 when he had -2 defensive runs saved. Hernandez is entering his prime, and should he see a slight increase in productivity, could be a nice piece to add in centerfield if the Mets lose Springer as an option.
Option 3: Kevin Pillar, Rockies
The final free agent option for the Mets is Kevin Pillar. Pillar has seen a drastic decline in defensive productivity over the last two or three years. After three straight insane defensive years where Pillar had defensive runs saved of 16, 22, and 14, he has now had three straight years in the negatives. Pillar has lost a good amount of speed over the years and he is entering his age 32 season. He still has a pretty solid bat, however. Pillar was never that great of a hitter, he was a guy who would get you around 15 home runs and 50+ runs batted in. He is coming off of a 2020 season where he hit .288 and had six homers and 26 RBIs in 54 games played. While his defensive capabilities have taken a hit with age, his bat is right on par with his usual production.
If the Mets lose George Springer as an option and are not going to sign a free agent, then it looks like Brandon Nimmo will remain the everyday center fielder. That is not necessarily a bad thing, as Nimmo has proven to be a good leadoff hitter. Nimmo is patient at the plate, and gets on base at a torrid pace. He has good speed and can steal a base every so often as well. The best-case scenario for New York would obviously be to sign Springer. But the Mets will need options if Springer doesn’t want to fill that hole.