After the 2013 season, the New York Mets seemed like a team on the verge of breaking through. Unfortunately, they did a poor job of navigating the free-agent market. First, they failed to acquire power-hitting outfielder Nelson Cruz. Next, they picked up outfielder Chris Young, who wouldn’t have been a terrible idea as a reclamation project — except that they promised him an everyday job and paid as much for him as they could have paid for Cruz. The Young experiment turned out disastrously; Cruz went to the Orioles, who ran away with the AL East and are currently up two games in the ALDS.
Nevertheless, in 2014 the Mets began to figure out the parts they had in place. Juan Lagares, finally given the everyday job in center, showed he’s a future perennial Gold Glover who can hit at the major league level. Lucas Duda, finally given first base and the cleanup position, put himself on the NL leaderboard in several hitting categories while playing solid defense. Despite injuries, the pitching staff was solid, as expected, and the Mets’ bullpen gradually emerged as one of the NL’s best. While it’s nothing to jump up and down about, the Mets finished only a few games under .500, and technically finished second in the division. It seems the Mets were, at last, but a couple of tweaks from returning to the thick of contention.
Unfortunately, this year’s free-agent market isn’t exactly headline-grabbing. Many teams have signed their stars to long-term contracts, and some of the impending free agents play positions we don’t appear to need filled, as with Pirates catcher Russell Martin. What the Mets need is another power bat, and to solidify at shortstop and/or one of the corner outfield spots. Troy Tulowitzki, who might be the best all-in-one fit for the Mets’ needs, might also prove too costly. The Mets would be unwise to give up too much for him, especially as their youth movement has largely fueled their resurgence.
After a disappointing end to what was once a promising season, many people think the Oakland Athletics will be looking to make offseason moves. Their right fielder, Josh Reddick, would be a good, inexpensive option for the Mets to pursue.
Josh Reddick has power, speed and athleticism. He’s become known for wall-scaling catches in Oakland’s spacious outfield, and he’s got an excellent arm in right field. A lefty, Reddick has batted second as well as in the bottom third of the A’s lineup. He’s only had one year that’s particularly impressive at the plate, but this is partly because of injuries and the A’s tendency to platoon nearly everyone. His strikeout totals are concerning, but there are signs he can be coached out of that as he’s only 27 years old and on the front end of his peak years. And he’s currently only making $2.7 million with the A’s, which makes him a proverbial steal given his age, upside and established talents.
Even if Josh Reddick didn’t improve greatly as a hitter, he’d make the Mets’ outfield defense even more solid. In a pitcher’s park, with a pitching-heavy roster, this is no small consideration. If Reddick blossomed into a viable option behind leadoff, he’d be a dangerous table-setter with power and speed. Otherwise, he’d be as good of a seven or eight hitter as there is in the National League, giving protection to Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Duda and Travis d’Arnaud. Because he’s a known commodity but not yet a superstar, the Athletics couldn’t ask for the farm for him. And he’s comfortable playing under pressure and in big moments, which is exactly the kind of trait the Mets need more of.
With Josh Reddick, the Mets would be adding power, speed, athleticism, defense and youth with high upside. He wouldn’t cost as much as some of the bigger names being considered, and his addition would carry much more potential reward than risk.