With the off season fast approaching, it’s time for Sandy Alderson to get to work. We’ll be moving around the diamond to see what challenges the Mets face for 2017, and see what we could do to help fix them, or perhaps mess them up even more. Look, we don’t get paid for this, so Sandy should listen to us at his own risk.
First base is one of the positions that the Mets had which went from an exclamation point on Opening Day 2016 to a question mark as we hit November. Lucas Duda went from having a terrific 2014, to a streaky 2015, to an injury riddled 2016. What’s frustrating is that once Duda had finally figured it out, he got hit with injuries. And now his prime years are slipping away while nobody knows what to expect from him. When healthy, he’s proven he can be a cog. But he had back issues last season, and having back issues myself, I can tell you it isn’t fun. Of course, I’m not a major league first baseman so my back issues are combined with the unmovable obstacle known as having no talent. So take what I say with a grain of salt.
Add to that the player who was supposed to be the sometime back up at first base to provide righty pop, Wilmer Flores, dealt with injury issues of his own thanks to Terry Collins not being able to pinch run for somebody and chew gum at the same time. They were lucky to be able to sign somebody like James Loney from a minor league roster. Most seasons would have seen Eric Campbell get a ton of playing time, or guys like Kelly Johnson or Flores getting overexposed. Loney held the fort well early, but went into a deep slump in the middle of his tenure. And while he was advertised as being a plus defensive first baseman, he refused to stretch for balls, he has the range of Steven Seagal, and some of the balls he could get to he let go by him for the second baseman to handle, presumably to show off his knowledge of geometry or something.
The Mets have Dominic Smith lurking in the minors, and since 2015 he’s been a .300 hitter in St. Lucie and Binghamton. He even found a power stroke in AA, hitting 14 home runs and 29 doubles last season for a .457 slugging percentage. This makes first base a fairly tidy situation. With Duda projected to make $6.7 million in arbitration next year (and if Duda hits that’s a bargain), the Mets could just let Duda play out to his free agency and give Smith one last season to either take over first base in 2018, or use him as a chip to get somebody else.
A smart thing to do would be to let Michael Conforto play some first base in spring training. He could be an option over there, and it would be a good way to get him at-bats if Yoenis Cespedes comes back and they have him, Curtis Granderson, and Juan Lagares coming back at full health. But the Mets always seem to get bit in the butt about things like this (See: Piazza, 2003), so I wouldn’t expect a miracle there, especially if Cespedes leaves. I guess they know best.
Paul Goldschmidt has two years left on his deal at $8.875 million and $11.1 million, plus a team option at $14.5 million or a $2 million buyout for 2019. If Tony LaRussa loses his mind and decides to trade his best player in an effort to “retool the farm system”, the Mets might be wise to at least think about trading some prospects and take on that very manageable contract. But Tony LaRussa isn’t going to lose his mind, Smith and Amed Rosario would probably have to be included in any deal for Goldschmidt, and a team like the Yankees might be able to offer more in prospects to get him. So I guess that means that I brought this up just to toy with you.
Miguel Cabrera is also a pipe dream. The Tigers want to get rid of payroll, and Cabrera has $210 million left, along with two vesting options if he finishes in the top ten in MVP voting in 2023 and 2024. Even Omar Minaya cringes at that, and he loves his vesting options. There are other Tigers to consider in a potential fire sale, but Cabrera isn’t one of them.
There is also the free agent pool, which includes 34-year-old Edwin Encarnacion who can destroy baseballs. But overpaying for an older player doesn’t seem to be in the playbook anymore. Besides, I have the strange feeling that Encarnacion is taking his parrot to an American League city to keep the designated hitter role in his playbook. So that’s a pipe dream too. The Mets could also take a look at Mike Napoli and his leadership, but they would just be replacing a guy who can only hit righties with a guy who can only hit lefties. So what exactly would be the point of that? It isn’t as if the Mets clubhouse is a big problem.
First base is a position that usually houses the big hitters. And the Mets will probably bank on Duda for one more year to be that big hitter. Perhaps a guy like Steve Pearce (who has been rumored to be a Met since 1987) comes in to be that right handed platoon partner, and provide a little insurance if Duda can’t answer the bell. But with Smith on the horizon, it seems too easy to just go with Duda’s $6.7 million and roll the dice. Especially when there are other places to spend money.
Tomorrow, we look at second base where a group of fans have kept vigil in hopes that the Nationals will trade Daniel Murphy back to Flushing for Mrs. Met and Louie the Limo.