Is A.J. Pollock the answer to the Mets’ outfield need or just another injury waiting to happen?
As general manager Brodie Van Wagenen sorts through the limited number of available outfield options who could improve the club, Pollock’s name remains near the top of their list. But Pollock also has a price tag and injury history that is leaving team officials to wonder if the money could be better spent elsewhere, with a variety of scenarios possible.
The 31-year-old center fielder had a slash line of .257/.316/.484 with 21 homers and 65 RBIs in 113 games for the Diamondbacks last season.
He missed six weeks with a left thumb avulsion fracture, sustained while diving for a ball in the outfield. Pollock also missed significant action the previous two seasons with injuries, but when healthy is viewed as a reliable right-handed bat who can hit in the middle of the lineup.
“I’ve always liked Pollock, but you can’t dismiss the fact he’s been nicked up the last couple of years,” a National League scout said Friday. “He’s intelligent and a player who comes with a lot of intangibles. The Diamondbacks were always good when Pollock played.”
The scout compared Pollock’s influence on Arizona’s lineup to Lorenzo Cain’s presence for the Royals when they won the World Series in 2015. Pollock is seeking the same kind of contract as the one Cain received last winter from the Brewers, setting the bar at five years and $80 million. The Mets likely have the payroll flexibility to shop in that neighborhood, but with needs at catcher and reliever, also have reservations, according to an industry source.
Among the variety of scenarios that have been discussed in a lean center-field market for right-handed hitters is the idea of pursuing another corner outfield bat and beginning the season with a combination of Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo in center.
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At the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas next week, the Mets are expected to at least ask about Yasiel Puig, who has been put on the trade market by the Dodgers. Puig is scheduled to earn $9.2 million next season, a number that could be more palatable to the Mets than Pollock’s asking price. But the colorful Puig would also bring a potential clubhouse distraction to the Mets. Over the years there have been rumblings of a prickly relationship between Puig and fellow Cuban Yoenis Cespedes. Even so, it’s unclear when and if Cespedes — who is recovering from surgery on both heels — will play next season.
Lagares, who is scheduled to earn $9 million next season, has practically lived on the disabled list since 2016. But there is still a faction of talent evaluators who view Lagares as worth the gamble, especially given the offensive improvements he displayed in the first month last season before he broke his big toe and had surgery.
“Let’s talk about what the guy can do,” the scout said. “You can’t count too many guys you would rather have in center field.”
Nimmo’s name has surfaced as a possibility to lead a trade package with the Marlins for J.T. Realmuto. If Nimmo were dealt, the Mets would have a gaping hole in the outfield, but also wouldn’t have to allocate mega-dollars to the catcher’s position, leaving it easier to go full-throttle in pursuit of Pollock.