With the recent signing of Yoenis Cespedes, an already deep New York Mets outfield got significantly deeper. You may recall Cespedes from the Oakland A's teams of 2012 and 2013. Cespedes was also slated to be an Oakland A in 2014, but the galaxy tore that year from existence, and it definitely, totally didn't happen.
At any rate, rumors are starting to circulate on the status of incumbent Mets centerfielder Juan Lagares. With Cespedes in position to take the majority of the reps in 2016 and newly signed lefty Alejandro de Aza also in the mix, the Mets are in a position to move someone. Should the A's swoop in?
Are the A's linked to Lagares?
I'd like to start off by saying that no, there have been no rumors tying the A's to Lagares or the Mets at all. While it seems obvious that an outfielder may be on the move, rumors around the Mets have been quiet in the days since Cespedes signed, so it's not a guarantee someone will move, just more of a logical conclusion. That said, I'm writing this because A) the A's are shallow in the outfield for seasons to come and have made comments about not being done this offseason and B) I absolutely adore Lagares and want you to know about him prior to his ending up on a team I hate like all my baseball crushes inevitably do.
Who is Juan Lagares?
You might be wondering what all of the fuss is about when you see these stats and it's true, Lagares would make a good rival to Eric Sogard in a home run derby. Lagares derives his value from his glove. In 2014, he put up a league best 28 DRS as a centerfielder, cementing himself as an elite defender. With just about league average offense, Lagares was worth an impressive 4 fWAR. Prior to 2015, he was extended by the Mets on a 5 year, $23 million dollar backloaded deal with a club option for a 6th season. Lagares graciously thanked the Mets by putting up his worst pro season, dropping his wRC+ 21 points and his DRS 26 runs to be worth only a win in 2015.
What can we expect from Lagares in 2016? First, there's reason to believe his poor 2015 with the glove was a fluke. Going into his age 27 season, Lagares is just entering his physical prime so unless his injured elbow is effecting more than just his throws it seems like he should bounce back. His bat will never be anything special; Lagares just managed to be league average with the bat in 2014 even with a .341 BABIP. If given a full time roll, I expect Lagares to be an average to above average player thanks to his stellar glove work.
What would Lagares cost?
Like always, this is the million dollar question. While the Mets now have Cespedes to patrol center, his contract includes an opt out after 2016 and only goes till 2018 if he stays. His centerfield defense leaves lots to be desired, so Lagares isn't totally redundant yet and the Mets depth looks somewhat short term. Basically, the Mets won't be just giving away Lagares as he could still find himself in a starting role in a year.
Still, Lagares is coming off a down year on a team with too many outfielders. If he is moved, you can bet his new team could have him at a reasonable price.
But he sounds a lot like Billy Burns
It's true, we already have a slap hitting centerfielder. Lagares's near perfect route taking ability separates him defensively by a few miles from Billy who is still working on using his incredible speed to his defensive advantage. Lagares could potentially help mold Billy into the centerfielder we all know he can be.
Plus, another Billy Burns type could do wonders for the A's. Mark Canha isn't ideal in left, even after he held is own in 2015. Another outfielder could move Canha to the DH spot for every day at bats in lieu of Billy Butler and our pitching staff would certainly appreciate an elite defensive outfielder in the cavernous coliseum.
Should the A's go for him?
Unless the asking price is very low, which I don't anticipate it will be, I don't think there's a fit here. For one, the Mets could need a centerfielder as soon as next year so they're unlikely to just throw Lagares away. Lagares also looks like a prime candidate for a bounceback season, so the Mets would be selling low if they moved him now.
That said, if the asking price started around a mid-level prospect or a major league ready reliever then it's something I think the A's would consider. Lagares has a chance to be a special defender and above average player on a reasonable contract. I just don't anticipate the A's being the top bidder here, and rightfully so.
But you just never know with this front office, so while you're sitting around waiting for the season to start, treat yourself to some Juan Lagares highlights.