This is an ongoing series as we enter the peak of the trade season, looking at the various internal options that each team may turn to should they trade a given core player. We've already covered possible replacements for Jose Reyes, J.J. Hardy, Carlos Pena, and Ryan Ludwick- more names will come over the next couple weeks.
When the Mets signed Carlos Beltran nearly seven years ago, they probably weren't anticipating that his contract would culminate with a big sell-off. Heck, they were probably expecting to have a pennant or two by now as well, but you guys have probably heard by now about how those endeavors are going. And with new people thinking at the helm for New York, the club appears to be trying to push itself in a new direction, one based more in efficient spending and strong player development.
So with management slowly overhauling the roster with an eye on contending in a couple years, and Carlos Beltran looking like a likely casualty, who could replace the star as primary right fielder for the Mets this year, and possibly beyond?
Scott Hairston: Hairston's rough performance with San Diego last season is probably what sticks out in the minds of most fans, but outside of that 2010 season, he's posted wOBA marks above .330 in every season since 2007. He's got a major platoon split, as he heavily favors left-handed pitching, which probably limits him to a role where he's shielded against right-handed pitchers, but he's generally hit well against lefties and he's a solid defender capable of playing all three positions. He'd likely need a platoon-mate to join him (maybe Martinez?), but I'd expect Hairston to suck up a lot of the hacks that Beltran is taking right now against southpaws.
Nick Evans: Evans has been on the Mets' bench for about a week now after spending essentially the rest of the season down in Triple-A, where he was killing the ball for Buffalo. The 25-year-old hasn't hit at all in the majors yet after receiving MLB stints in each of the past four years now, but with a .329/.378/.480 line with Buffalo, he's clearly one of the better MLB-ready hitters left in the organization. His Triple-A numbers are actually down from last year, but the Mets have to be curious to see whether Evans can turn into a solid hitter at the next level.
Willie Harris: Currently the Mets' utility guy, Harris has long provided solid on-base skills, but the remainder of his offensive game has deteriorated over the past couple years. In his peak 2008-2009 seasons, Harris struck out around 16% of the time while posting isolated power marks in the .155-.165 range. This year, he's struck out 28% of the time while posting a .081 isolated power. His numbers aren't awful thanks to a handy .361 BABIP, but given Harris' track record as a low-BABIP hitter, that mark is likely to plummet from here. I'd expect Harris to have a really hard time if he's pushed into regular action by a Beltran deal, but there's a non-zero possibility that it happens.
NOTE: Triple-A outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis would've been included in this article, likely near the top of the list, with better health. The 23-year-old was hitting .298/.403/.505 with Triple-A Buffalo before going down with a shoulder strain that may eventually require surgery. He's likely a non-factor for the remainder of the 2011 season, although he's worth keeping an eye on for next year.
Fernando Martinez: Part of this is just my general curiosity, but I really think that the Mets need to see what exactly they have in Martinez. Once regarded as one of the best center field prospects in the game as a teenager, Martinez has since filled out a great deal and now projects as a fringe average corner outfielder defensively. Even as injuries and physical maturation have devolved Martinez from a potential five-tool star center fielder into decent Triple-A prospect, he still retains some intrigue given that he's only 22 and he's usually performed alright with Buffalo. If Beltran is gone, the Mets will clearly be throwing up the white flag- in that case, why not give Martinez a shot and see if you can catch lightning in a bottle?