The Mets need to fill a hole in their outfield for 2023 thanks to Brandon Nimmo becoming a free agent this winter. There’s a good chance New York brings its homegrown player back to Flushing for the foreseeable future, but what if he signs elsewhere?
That’s a possibility general manager Billy Eppler has already been preparing for. We heard some of the options New York has on the table should that happen thanks to Eppler’s appearance on “The Show” podcast with New York Post‘s Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman.
One of the good reasons behind signing Mark Canha and Starling Marte last winter was that they’ve had experience playing multiple positions in the big leagues. It looks like Marte’s past experience in center field will help New York stay flexible in its offseason pursuits to supplement the roster.
Billy Eppler on whether Starling Marte can still play center field to give them more options this offseason:
“We believe he can and that opens up some optionality for how we ultimately fill out that outfield.”
— Michael Mayer (@mikemayer22) November 2, 2022
It’s great to have a club with a bunch of defensive versatility. We saw manager Buck Showalter use that to his advantage throughout 2022, especially with Luis Guillorme and Jeff McNeil. Already having an outfielder with extensive experience in center like Marte is terrific. That doesn’t mean he should just slide over to that position and be the everyday starter in 2023, though.
The defensive alignment worked. The Mets’ outfield defense registered just two Outs Above Average (OAA) as a unit last season, which ranked 14th in MLB. A lot of that was thanks to Nimmo, who ranked 14th among center fielders with six OAA himself.
This past year was Marte’s first taste of right field, and it yielded positive results for the veteran and the Mets. While he produced -2 OAA, it was accompanied by three Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). Marte’s arm also played well, compiling nine assists from that area of the outfield.
Offense is the priority. We saw how much New York missed Marte’s offensive presence in September. His defense is a plus, but it’s his bat the Mets desperately need to keep in the lineup moving forward. Center field is a physically demanding position, especially when someone is running out there to play it every day.
Marte will be entering his age-34 campaign. He’ll continue to be a table setter at the top of Showalter’s lineup. One of his best offensive traits is his speed and ability to run the bases effectively. It’d be better to make sure he’s as fresh as possible to consistently contribute at the plate.
Mets clearly view him as a corner OFer. It would’ve been easy to simply install Marte as the Mets’ regular center fielder last winter when New York signed him. But based on Nimmo’s improvements and Marte’s declining defensive statistics at that spot on the diamond, New York felt it was more effective to move its new acquisition to the corner.
Eppler probably means what he said about moving Marte to center if it’s for the best of the team. But in an ideal situation, he wants to keep the veteran in right field. And it’s obvious to see why.