The Mets have been on the hunt for a right-handed hitter who can be a fourth outfielder for the majority of this winter. That pursuit was put on hold during the Carlos Correa fiasco, but it picked back up once he re-signed with the Minnesota Twins.
Since then, Mets targets had come off the board because of agreements with other teams.
First, it was Andrew McCutchen. New York pursued him hard, but Cutch opted for a return to the Pittsburgh Pirates (plus more guaranteed playing time). Then, it was Trey Mancini, who agreed to a two-year deal with the Chicago Cubs. The Mets’ preferred list of options took another hit on Wednesday, too. The Boston Red Sox agreed to terms on a one-year deal with Adam Duvall.
Not long ago, we listed four players the Mets were interested in for this fourth-outfielder role. Three of them have signed elsewhere, leaving Jurickson Profar as the only free agent left. As options have gotten crossed off the list, Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported New York was also kicking the tires on Tommy Pham.
That’s exactly the guy they landed on for this role, according to Michael Mayer of Metsmerized and others. This is not a perfect fit by any means, but at this point in the winter, not many perfect fits are left on the free-agent market.
There were two reasons why I would’ve liked to see New York find an option other than Pham. One is his lack of defense. The soon-to-be 35-year-old ranked in just the ninth percentile of Statcast’s Outs Above Average (OAA) metric last season. Then there was the whole fantasy football fiasco that resulted in Pham slapping Joc Pederson.
SNY’s Andy Martino reports the Mets did ample background work on Pham and felt he’d be a positive in the clubhouse. So you’d have to hope the vetting was thorough enough and that’s true. And it’s not like he’s going to be playing every day on the field. The defense appears subpar, but it ideally won’t be experience for prolonged periods of time.
His offensive numbers show why he was a player the Mets pursued. Sure, he slugged 17 homers in 2022, but it was accompanied by a 0.6 fWAR, 89 wRC+, and .686 OPS. The biggest draw was likely his performance against left-handed pitching. He posted a .784 OPS and 115 wRC+ against southpaws last year. Those numbers are .832 and 132, respectively, for his career.
If you look around Mets Twitter, people are annoyed New York didn’t land any of the other options listed above. But it takes two to tango. Both Cutch and Duvall are joining teams that are guaranteeing playing time for them. That’s something the Mets couldn’t do. They tried to convince them otherwise, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles sometimes.