Well it looks like the New York Mets first round pick in 2013 will be protected after all! No, it’s not because the MLBPA stepped in and saw to it that the team would retain it’s pick while negotiating with free agent outfielder Michael Bourn, it’s because the Cleveland Indians have agreed to a 4-year contract with the 30-year-old center fielder.
The pact with the Tribe is said to be worth $48 million and includes a vesting option that could bring the total compensation to $60 million.
According to various outlets, the Mets were willing to go to four years on a deal with Bourn, but insisted on draft pick protection, which apparently was never guaranteed.
Interestingly enough, as Jon Heyman of SI.com points out, Bourn’s deal with Cleveland may set the Indians up as a trade partner with the Mets.
As things dragged on and Bourn’s price tag seemingly dropped, you had to wonder when a mystery team would jump in and pounce. The conspiracy theorists will suggest the Mets interest was all a publicity stunt, but apparently they did have an offer on the table. Still, Joel Sherman of the New York Post raised a good question.
Then, he came up with a good answer!
Bottom line is that the Mets don’t have Michael Bourn and the Indians….well they do. So, that leaves New York to enter Spring Training with an outfield comprised of Lucas Duda, Mike Baxter, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Collin Cowgill, and whoever has a glove and some free time in St. Lucie. As Anthony Dicomo of MLB.com wrote today, while Sandy Alderson might not think his outfield is a strength, nobody told that to the guys taking the field.
“I think we’re good, actually,” left fielder Lucas Duda said.
But the outfield, an obvious liability last summer, appears even weaker heading into Spring Training. Gone is Scott Hairston, the unit’s most productive power hitter, along with Andres Torres and Jason Bay.
To replace them, the Mets traded for Collin Cowgill, a 26-year-old former prospect with severe platoon splits, and signed bench candidates Andrew Brown and Marlon Byrd. Duda will be back as the everyday left fielder, following last year’s midseason demotion to the Minors. Also returning will be Mike Baxter and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, both of whom suffered serious injuries in 2012.
Every one of them understands the widespread belief that they will rank among the least productive outfields in baseball. Every one of them shrugs it away.
“I don’t read that stuff,” Baxter said. “I don’t get into the papers too much. Believe me, I have enough desire to want to stick here and help this team win, and that fuels me plenty.”
Cowgill, the new guy, is familiar with this feeling. He made his Major League debut on a D-backs team that was supposed to land near the bottom of the National League West in 2011. They finished first. From there, he made his way to an A’s club that was supposed to sit near the bottom of the American League West in 2012. They, too, finished first.
“I definitely think I can help,” said Cowgill, who owns a .379 career on-base percentage against left-handed pitching. “I look around, I know these guys, I’ve seen them play. There’s a lot of talent.”
That talent begins with Duda, whose chance of a breakout season seems as high as anyone’s. Newly determined after last year’s demotion and fully recovered from an offseason wrist injury, Duda is ready to improve upon his .239 average and 15 home runs from last season.
To his left, Nieuwenhuis and Cowgill will likely split time, in a platoon situation that could mitigate both players’ weaknesses. Nieuwenhuis struggled mightily against left-handers in his rookie season, just as Cowgill floundered against righties. Deployed correctly, those two could complement one another as a unit.
“We’re just excited, and we’re preparing the way that we know how,” Nieuwenhuis said. “We know what we’re capable of doing and we’re excited for the season. All that stuff that people talk about, all that stuff is just completely out of our control. For us to dwell on that and think about that would be completely detrimental to our play on the field.”
“I’m excited, man,” Duda said. “People can say what they want about our outfield. We’re just going to continue to work hard.”
I love the attitude, but even as I was reading that I think Lucas Duda just misplayed a ball in right field and two runs scored.
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