Alejandro De Aza’s signing leaves Nieuwenhuis vulnerable

Alejandro De Aza’s signing leaves Nieuwenhuis vulnerable

The New York Mets and outfielder Alejandro De Aza have agreed to a one-year, $5.75 million contract agreement, according to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

De Aza, 31, hit .262/.333/.422 in 2015 in 114 games with the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants. The left-handed batter was primarily successful against right-handed pitching, against which he produced an .800 on-base plus slugging. He has produced a .756  on-base plus slugging against righties in his career.

The outfielder’s caveat is his defensive ability. Only thrice (2009, 2011, and 2014) has De Aza been a positive defender according to Ultimate Zone Rating, and not since 2011 has he rated above-average according to Defensive Runs Saved.

De Aza’s addition leaves longtime Mets outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis in a vulnerable position. Nieuwenhuis, who is out of options, was the team’s primary left-handed outfield option off of the bench, but De Aza’s addition leaves his role in question.

Nieuwenhuis appeared to be a strong candidate to earn a supporting role in 2016 after the outfielder produced a .922 on-base plus slugging when he was re-acquired from the Los Angeles Angels for a second stint with the team in 2015. His career-best 40.5 hard hit percentage was hindered by a .280 batting average on balls in play, nearly 40 points below his career average, which supports that his first-half results may have been unlucky. Nieuwenhuis’ career-best six defensive runs saved also trump De Aza’s defensive output — for the last three seasons combined.

If the Mets add an additional outfielder on a Major League contract, Nieuwenhuis has no defined role on the team. With Michael Conforto, Juan Lagares, Curtis Granderson, and De Aza all possessing more certain guarantees — be it playing time or salary commitments — it would take an injury for Nieuwenhuis to make the Mets’ Opening Day roster.

Photo credit: Keith Allison