Terry Collins knows the Mets need to add more power
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CLEVELAND - Of the three players who lead the Mets in home runs this season, exactly none currently occupies a locker in their clubhouse.
Two of them, Marlon Byrd (21) and John Buck (16), wear a different uniform after their trade to the Pirates. The other, David Wright (15), remains in Florida, where he's trying to return from a hamstring injury before season's end.
That leaves Lucas Duda -- with a grand total of 12 home runs -- at the top of a list that underscores the glaring power outage the Mets must address for next season.
"You look at all the teams that are winning," manager Terry Collins said. "They're dangerous, they can hit home runs, and that's where the game is at. And if you're not, you better have some good offensive players, guys who are on base and getting into scoring position . . . but this game is about home runs today."
And the Mets haven't hit them. Though the Mets rank seventh in the National League in overall offense -- their 4.03 runs per game sit at the league average -- they lag behind in the home run department. They rank 10th with 117.
It wasn't supposed to be this way, of course. At the start of the season, the Mets thought they might have had answers for their power conundrum.
To add more punch to their lineup, the Mets stashed first baseman Duda in leftfield, where they hoped his power bat would make up for his deficient glove. The experiment failed.
To protect Wright in the batting order, the Mets slotted first baseman Ike Davis into the cleanup spot, where they banked on seeing the player who had hit 32 homers the previous season. He never showed up.
The combination of ineffectiveness from Duda and Davis short-circuited the Mets' efforts to extract power from traditional sources. They have gotten only 12 homers out of their first basemen, and only the Marlins are worse in all of baseball. And they have managed only 14 homers from their leftfielders, which ranks in the game's bottom third.
Part of the Mets' lack of pop in leftfield stemmed from a conscious decision. With Duda lagging under the weight of playing out of position, he eventually was moved back to first base in June, then landed on the disabled list with an oblique injury.
Also, the Mets traded for Eric Young Jr., whose speed provided an immediate upgrade on defense in left and on the bases. The trade-off was power potential.
Young has enjoyed moderate success, and during an appearance on WFAN radio this week, general manager Sandy Alderson acknowledged as much.
He also revealed his priorities.
Said Alderson: "Ideally, we'd like a little more power out of that spot."
Certainly, the Mets could use it. For instance, during a seven-game homerless stretch in late July, the club went 2-5 and averaged only 2.1 runs per game. But Collins recalled the beginning of the season, when the Mets' offense hummed along thanks to a flurry of homers.
"We hit the ball out of the ballpark," Collins said. "It makes a huge difference when you have that ability."
The search for more muscle has been an organizational priority. Earlier this season, a rival executive said the Mets scoured other organizations for power-hitting prospects in preparation for any potential trades. That diligence paid off recently when the Mets packaged Byrd and Buck to the Pirates for reliever Vic Black and second baseman Dilson Herrera, who at 19 already has shown flashes of growing into a power threat. He hit 11 homers at Class A this season.
Meanwhile, with what remains of the season, the Mets are sorting through their internal options. With Davis down, Duda will play first base, and the Mets hope to see his power flourish now that he's in his natural defensive position.
Centerfielder Matt den Dekker also will get a look. Much like teammate Juan Lagares, den Dekker is considered well above average defensively. However, despite a tendency to strike out, den Dekker also has shown some pop and a higher offensive upside than Lagares.
"You look down the road, you like his power, right?" Collins said. "But if he makes better contact, he's got a chance to hit. So right now, our concern is to make sure his contact is better, and then all that stuff plays out."
Free agency this offseason will afford the Mets the chance to buy more muscle, or perhaps they can acquire some through a trade.
But as this season winds down, Collins is less focused on who could be added and more concerned with evaluating whom the Mets already have in house for next season.
Said Collins: "You worry about who you've got."