With the perhaps loose lips of Manager Terry Collins intimating that Gold Glove centerfielder Juan Lagares is hurting much more than they’ve said and Tommy John Surgery being a real possibility, the reaction was rather odd. First there was the defeatist, “Another one bites the dust” refrain from the fans who fear every time a Mets player has a hangnail it somehow will become gangrenous. Then there were the “Just when he got going with the bat” folks who felt the anemic offense could not withstand yet another blow. Finally, there were the, “I told ya so!” types who wondered whatever happened to the highlight reel throws we’ve seen during the past two years.
Look, if Lagares is part of the future and TJS will help his ailing arm, then stalling serves no purpose. While the optimists in the crowd point to the standings and cite the Mets having the best record in the NL East as reason why you have to do everything you can to win now, the perhaps more realistic contingent of the fan base understand that becoming a contender is a marathon, not a sprint. TJS now means you might lose him for all of 2016 as well as he’d be undergoing the typical 18 month recovery cycle. Theoretically you could have him limp along until September, figuring he’d have October through December, all of 2016 and then the first few months of 2017 to recover, putting him on track for Spring Training that year, but I keep having bad Rusty Staub flashbacks from 1973 when he clearly couldn’t throw yet they trotted him out there every day anyway, costing them games with his inability to nail baserunners.
Assuming he has to go under the knife then Lagares would go on the 60 day DL and thus open up a spot on the 40-man roster. That means internal solutions abound. Let’s take a look.
- Darrell Ceciliani – the slick fielding, speedy Ceciliani started off slowly for the Mets but has come on in spot play, flashing both defensive acumen and some solid contact hitting. In the minors he was a career .286 hitter who has stolen as many as 31 bases in a season. He’s also a natural centerfielder so the transition would me minimal. His 4th outfielder role would then have to be filled by someone else.
- Travis Taijeron – An all-or-nothing hitter, Taijeron is having a great season for the 51s. He’s currently hitting .295 with 12 HRs and 34 RBIs in just 176 ABs for Las Vegas. What’s disturbing, however, is his 35% strikeout rate. That’s Kirk Nieuwenhuis/Anthony Recker territory. Ouch. If they did choose to promote him, that would mean Curtis Granderson moving over from RF to CF to open up the corner for the right handed slugger.
- Kirk Nieuwenhuis – Yes, the very same Captain Kirk deemed too poor to play a bench role was DFA’d by the Mets and then inexplicably re-claimed when waived by the Angels. We’ve all watched this team operate and know they like to trot out the familiar even when other potentially better options exist. He would be a name in the mix, too.
- Alex Castellanos – The former Dodger farmhand has been very solid for the 51s, playing mostly outfield and some 3B. He’s currently sporting very similar numbers to Taijeron but with fewer strikeouts. Also a right handed batter, his promotion would also necessitate a Granderon shift to CF.
- Jayce Boyd – Bad timing for the sweet swinging former first baseman who’s trying to transition himself to the outfield. He’s doing his usual near-.300 hitting and more impressively only K’d 24 times in 211 ABs across two levels. Think right handed Dave Magadan. He’s got no power but the offense might get a boost if he was in the 2-hole on a nightly basis. Unfortunately his career experience as an outfielder is just 38 games.
- Brandon Nimmo – Staying healthy has been a challenge for Sandy Alderson’s unheralded draft pick, but no one has questioned his ability to play CF. He was in the middle of a .301 campaign for Binghamton when he went on the DL, but he’s back now and considering the Mets’ recent past with Dario Alvarez, Dilson Herrera and Akeel Morris, they have shown a surprising willingness to skip levels when the need arises.
- Michael Conforto – The elephant in the room, Michael Conforto is hitting even better since being promoted to Binghamton than he had been doing in A-ball. At age 22 he would be young, but Herrera, Ruben Tejada, Jenrry Mejia and others have been thrust into the spotlight at younger ages. This is the fan-energizing move that would win the back pages of the newspapers, but it would come with serious questions about rushing the player, starting his service clock ticking and realigning the entire outfield with Michael Cuddyer crossing to RF and Granderson shifting to CF.
Externally you could always try to trade for spare parts like the Dodgers’ Andy Van Slyke who should be coming off the DL in the near future, but swapping players has never been one of Sandy Alderson’s preferred routes for changing the roster.
Finally, let’s not forget Daniel Murphy is due back soon with David Wright allegedly to follow a few weeks later around the All-Star Break. I wonder if Danny boy still has his left fielder’s glove? I kid, I kid. Then again, he was marginally better out there than Todd Hundley (and without the benefit of PEDs).
Let's not forget Cesar Puello is still on the payroll. Ditto Jason Bay. Bobby Bonilla is still cashing Mets checks, too :)