Assessing 2014 RF options

Getty Images/Ronald Modra

The thought of Giancarlo Stanton in a Mets uniform is appealing, but unrealistic.

The apple of the Mets (and everyone else’s eye) is in town this weekend. That being Marlins right-fielder Giancarlo Stanton. Recent reports are that Stanton, who would figure to be the Mets (and 28 other teams) top trade target this offseason if the Marlins were willing to deal, is not in any way on the trade market.

But this seems like a good time to discuss a few storylines related to him and the right-field market this offseason.

Why he’s desirable

Stanton is one of baseball’s premier talents, one who will turn 24 next season and would be under team control through the end of the 2016 season.

When Stanton makes contact, he hits balls a long way. As my Stats & Info colleague, Jose De Leon, pointed out yesterday, he’s one of 10 players with four seasons of at least 20 homers by the time he reached his “Age 23 season” (age as of June 30). The other nine are Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews, Frank Robinson, Orlando Cepeda, Tony Conigliaro, Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez.

Stanton has had an odd season, one that included a hamstring injury suffered against the Mets.

He’s swung less, mainly because he’s often been pitched around and the results haven’t been as good as normal. In particular, he’s failing to drive what we’d classify as “middle-middle” pitches (those in the middle-third of the strike zone, height-wise and width-wise). He had 21 homers off pitches to that area (basically the heart of the plate) in 2011 and 2012, but only has two in 2013.

Even if the Marlins were willing to trade him ...

The biggest hindrance for the Mets is not necessarily the Marlins' reluctance to part with Stanton, but what the Mets could give up to get him.

Look at most of the biggest deals in baseball, in the Mets case what it took to get the likes of a Gary Carter or Mike Piazza. When those deals are made, the team giving up the star gets both bats and arms in return. The Mets have arms to part with, but don’t have any high-end bats other than Travis d’Arnaud, whose major-league stint is not off to a great start.

The alternatives

One good thing about the right-field market this offseason is that there are a good number of options (and that doesn’t even count possibilities among left-fielders) that wouldn't cost the Mets any players, or their first-round draft pick (so long as they finish with one of the 10 worst records in the majors, they don't lose their top pick. They would lose their second-best pick for signing any free agent who received a qualifying offer and third-best pick if they signed two of them).

Among them will be ...

Shin-Soo Choo who, regarding the Mets, interest, you’ve probably already read about (who we’ll take a closer look at when the Mets face the Reds later this month), and whose 20 homers and .400-plus on-base percentage are highly desirable. Choo would also benefit from a move away from center field, where he's played poorly from a statistical perspective.

Hunter Pence, who is hitting .289 with 20 homers for a Giants team that plays in an offensive-limiting ballpark and division. Pence’s numbers have been consistent since the beginning of May, and he’s closing strong, with a .380 batting average in his last 19 games. Pence doesn't rate well defensively, but his successful baserunning skills (21 steals in 23 attempts) would fit with how this team plays.

Nelson Cruz, who is sitting out due to his Biogenesis-related suspension, is two years older than Choo and Pence and would probably not require as long a commitment. One thing to be apprehensive of, however, is how much of Cruz’s value was due to playing in Texas. Over the past three seasons, he has 50 homers at home, 30 on the road.

Marlon Byrd, who has spoken of how much he enjoyed playing in New York, will also be a free agent at season’s end. Byrd has had an amazing year at age 35, and one thing that will be wondered will be not just whether he can maintain his power, but also his batting average.

Byrd has hit .315 when hitting a ground ball this season, seventh-best in the majors and nearly 90 points higher than the .226 he hit on grounders from 2009 to 2012.

Who would you like to see in right field for the Mets in 2014? Share your thoughts in the comments.