After Young does homework, Mets pass the test
Just-signed outfielder spurns other clubs, impressed when speaking with Wright
NEW YORK -- A series of conversations with David Wright, as well as the promise of an open competition in center field, were the primary factors behind Chris Young's decision to sign with the Mets.
Young, who passed his physical Tuesday to finalize a one-year, $7.25 million contract, said he picked Wright's brain on multiple occasions before agreeing to move to New York.
"To hear it from a player's perspective definitely made a difference," Young said of Wright, who promised in September to make plenty of offseason recruiting calls for the Mets. "He can tell me how things work, how [the Mets] go about their business, do they believe in themselves, the type of fans they have, the type of players they have, the stadium, the city, the fan base -- all those things were brought into account to help me make this decision, and I'm happy with it."
The Mets are happy too, having landed a player who, in general manager Sandy Alderson's words, embodies "the approach that we're looking for offensively." Though Young is coming off two consecutive down seasons and has never quite repeated the standout campaign he submitted in 2010, Alderson hopes he "will be able to return to his All-Star-caliber performance from his days in Arizona" -- 27 homers with a .793 OPS.
Where on the diamond Young pursues those goals is what remains to be seen. Though Young said he prefers playing center field and feels most comfortable there, Alderson made no promises regarding Young's defensive position. Instead, the GM classified it as an open competition, saying the best defender will win the job so long as he meets the club's minimum offensive requirements.
It stands to reason then that Juan Lagares, who is coming off a Gold Glove-caliber defensive season, has the inside track on the center field job. But Lagares struggled offensively as a rookie, and must improve if he wants to hold off Young in Spring Training.
A strong defender throughout his career but not quite as strong as Lagares, Young said he intends to "fight for that position." But unlike Lagares, whose alternative is likely a bench role or even Triple-A, Young will start at one of the corners if he does not play in center.
"Playing center field has always been my natural position," said Young, who had never played a corner position in the Majors before last season. "That's where I've always excelled, and I feel like I've been able to do a great job in center field throughout my career. Last year with the A's, I did play some left and some right as well, but there was a learning curve. I did struggle at times early on. As the season went on, I was able to get more comfortable with it.
"But I'm open to every option. Whatever option helps the team, I'll be there for them."
For Young, the opportunity to play every day was most important; he chalked up most of his struggles over the past two seasons -- a .215, .295 on-base percentage and .701 OPS -- to a lack of playing time. As a result, Young said, "I don't know if I've ever been more motivated than I am right now."
"Anytime I've had a significant amount of at-bats, I feel like my production has been there," he said. "With all of those things taken into account, I'm feeling really positive about the season coming up."
Impressed by Wright's words and the Mets' young pitching, Young also spoke to Mets outfielder Eric Young and former Mets reliever LaTroy Hawkins about New York. It made an impact. Though the Cubs, Giants, Royals and Red Sox also reached out to him, Young chose the Mets because of their aggressive offer -- and recruiting pitch -- so early in the offseason.
"It just gives you a different perspective that helps as a player," Young said. "Everybody was extremely positive. Everybody that I talked to loves New York and the stadium and the facilities and everything else that comes with the game. So those are things that I was happy about."