ATLANTA -- Scott Hairston started his 10th consecutive game in the outfield Sunday, a notable feat. Signed last winter to serve as a right-handed bench bat and platoon outfielder, Hairston has played nearly every day down the stretch and will finish with close to 400 plate appearances, his highest total since 2009.
He is also enjoying the most productive season of his nine-year career, swatting a personal-best 19 home runs while slugging over .500. All of which leads Hairston to believe that when he becomes a free agent again this winter, he will be able to market himself as an everyday player.
"Wherever I wind up next year, I just want to have an expanded role," Hairston said. "I've been able to get around 360 at-bats this year, and I would hope to get at least that many next year, whether it's here or somewhere else."
It could make for a tricky situation, both for Hairston and the general managers interested in acquiring him. Hairston's greatest asset is clearly his ability to mash left-handed pitching, which he has done again this year to a .292/.323/.562 slash line entering Sunday's play. He has not been nearly as productive against right-handers, slashing .227/.273/.443 -- numbers comparable to his career totals.
But to benefit from Hairston's prowess against left-handed hitters, an acquiring team may have to entertain his desire for an expanded role. He has earned that negotiating platform -- consider his Wins Above Replacement, a catch-all statistic created to determine a player's overall worth. Hairston has produced a WAR of 1.9 this season, fifth on the Mets behind David Wright, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese and Ruben Tejada.
"I pretty much played in every role possible, and the last few weeks or so I've been playing every day," Hairston said. "It's just one of those things where I really don't know what's going to happen. I'm just going to prepare myself this offseason as if I'll be playing every day."
Hairston said he has enjoyed his two years in New York and is close with general manager Sandy Alderson, who he met during his days with the Padres. But the Mets may no longer be the best fit for him; they already have an expensive right-handed bench type returning in Jason Bay, and Hairston is a sure bet to cost more than the $1.1 million he earned last season -- easily one of Alderson's best deals since taking over as GM.
At the end of July, when the Mets decided not to deal Hairston to a contender at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, the outfielder expressed interest in negotiating a contract extension. But those talks never materialized, Hairston said, meaning he will become a free agent in November.
His decision to return or go elsewhere may hinge as much upon playing time as on dollars and cents.
"I don't know what their plans are for next year," Hairston said of the Mets. "They haven't expressed that to me. And I don't know if they're going to let me know until the offseason. A lot of it's in the unknown."