So Jason Bay finalized his deal with the Mets today. Whats it mean for the Braves?
The Mets outfield gets solidified a little bit, as the horrid platoon of Sheffield/Tatis/Pagan/etc gets sent to pasture. Assuming Carlos Beltran is healthy for the beginning of next season, and the surgery he had is not career threatening as once presumed, the Mets have an interesting outfield. They've got Beltran in center, who is a fantastic defender. They've got Bay in left, who is a horrible defender. And in right field, its our old friend Jeff Francoeur, who is below average. If Beltran can't hold up, there are going to be a lot of doubles falling into the gaps in Citi Field.
Offensively, its a whole new ballgame. Beltran is a great hitter...when healthy. Bay is also a wonderful hitter, though he strikes out a ton. And then theres Francoeur, who is...yeah. Mets fans will tell you how fantastic he is, Braves fans will scoff at that notion and start giggling when Minaya eventually gives him a huge extension. He OPSed .836 with the Mets, and still was worth a whopping $200K on the season. Thats just abysmal for a corner outfielder who will likely be making somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 million dollars this year.
But in the end, what does this mean for the Braves? The short answer is that they need to upgrade a corner, and fast. Nate McLouth's ceiling is an OPS around .800, and expecting much more out of him is silly. Matt Diaz is an ace in a platoon role, but who knows what he'll actually end up doing as a full-time starter. I'd expect something around .800 out of him at the absolute max as well. And then there's Melky Cabrera, who is a fourth outfielder and will hopefully not be a Brave in April.
What is the best option for that left field slot? There really isn't a lot left on the market. The Braves could bring back Garret Anderson...teehee, I'm just kidding. I wouldn't wish that upon the Phillies. There are some guys out there that could be interesting, like Jack Cust, Xavier Nady, Jonny Gomes and Rocco Baldelli, who wouldn't cost all that much. In the more pricey zone are guys who can't play defense worth a damn, like Johnny Damon, Vladimir Guerrero, Jermaine Dye, and the corpse of Brian Giles. Personally, I'd like to see the Braves take a flier on someone from my first list. Cust and Gomes can't field worth a damn, but they have a history of power...Cust is a lot more risky due to his extreme dropoff from last season to this one. Gomes could be interesting...he's terrible in the field, but has absolutely insane power. However, he's probably more of a fourth outfielder...just what the Braves need, another one of them. Nady and Baldelli are both injury risks, but Nady is probably the safer option at this point. Baldelli is just too risky, only getting 404 plate appearances over the last 3 seasons. I don't think it would take a whole lot to get Nady to Atlanta, and I'd be willing to live with his possibly bum arm to get a little more offense out of the outfield.
I don't think any of the more expensive guys is an option, with the possible exception of Damon if his price goes down. The Braves have a decent relationship with Damon's agent Scott Boras, and that could result in him taking a miniscule paycut to play near his home in Orlando during the spring. Dye, Guerrero, and Giles are completely in the tank on both offense and defense and should stay far, far away from this team based on the Garret Anderson experiment.
So whats the verdict? Just bring in Nady, dammit. We'd all prefer a young budding superstar, but thats not going to happen. And when it comes to Jason Heyward...please, take your time and don't rush him. I really would prefer that he gets some solid playing time in Gwinnett before he's called up to the majors.