With all the well-deserved doom and gloom about the Mets offense, there have been some highlights worth noting. Some good has come of this season's hitting (believe it or not). There are a few highlights from this season of players producing (when they can stay on the field). Being without David Wright, Travis d'Arnaud and Daniel Murphy for much of the season has not helped in the least. Then again, there are some people who are making a bad situation worse by continuing to produce at unacceptable levels which either represent their career norms or fall far below them.
The challenge to Sandy Alderson is figuring out how to bolster the anemic offense without jeopardizing the quartet of young, cost-controlled starting pitchers who represent the future of the franchise. Granted, no one is giving up All-Star talent without something viable in return, but there are peripheral pieces and secondary prospects who might fill the bill.
Let’s take a look at the batters and appreciate the good, then examine the bad, then finally figure out the solution.
Curtis Granderson Now Approaching His Bloated Paycheck
While the Mets seemed to have made yet another over-the-hill free agent blunder with the preemptive strike in December of 2013 to ink Curtis Granderson to a 4 year lucrative contract, he’s actually now providing close to his value. According a great, comprehensive article in FanGraphs in 2013 each win provided by a player was worth in the magnitude of $6 million in salary. Consequently a 3-WAR player should fairly be paid $18 million. Granderson is making $16 million this year and would need to provide about a 2.6 WAR rating to justify his salary. Right now he’s at 2.2 but is trending upwards.
Travis d’Arnaud is For Real
After all of the accolades he received and then the false start he had in 2014, it was easy to question whether or not he was capable of becoming an offensive presence for the club. It now appears that if he can stay healthy (and that’s a HUGE if) then he may be the Mets’ answer to Jonathan Lucroy – someone who hits for both power and average. Like Lucroy, however, d’Arnaud may want to consider a position switch in order to keep his bat in the lineup more often. (Lucroy has missed quite a bit of time in 2015 due to injury as well).
Daniel Murphy is Daniel Murphy
Another guy who has trouble staying on the field, Daniel Murphy is back now and hopefully picks up where he left off, with his usual .290 hitting with a passel of doubles to complement his occasional long ball. As a guy worth about 1.7 WAR per year, he will command a $10 million salary on the open market. That’s likely too rich for the Mets in the future but with David Wright on the shelf now they’re far less likely to try to peddle him at the trade deadline with free agency looming. Instead they will get nothing in return as a QO at around $16 million is highly unlikely to happen. They could still surprise people by working on a contract extension (particularly since Dilson Herrera has looked overmatched in his two trials at the big league level) but he may still be extraneous if David Wright comes back and Wilmer Flores remains at 2B.
Wilmer Flores (by Mets Standards) Can Hit
When was the last time the Mets had a middle infielder capable of 20 HRs and 70 RBIs? Edgardo Alfonzo? Yes, he’s hardly ideal no matter where you play him in the field and he clogs the base paths when he gets on base, but it’s offensive production that they’re not getting from Dilson Herrera, Ruben Tejada, Eric Campbell and others. Hopefully as he matures the OBP and AVG will increase just as they did throughout his minor league career after a period of adjustment.
Addition by Subtraction
It’s refreshing this year to see that incompetence at the big league level won’t be tolerated from bench players. Both Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Anthony Recker are mercifully gone from the dugout. Occasional power traded for 35% strikeout rates simply wasn’t cutting it. Unfortunately the replacements haven’t been a whole lot better save for Darrell Ceciliani. Mayberry is probably only still here due to his salary.
Michael Cuddyer, Batting Chump
When Sandy Alderson signed Michael Cuddyer, people questioned the wisdom in giving up a draft pick and the inclusion of a second year for a 36 year old player. Moreover, they wondered whether or not the oft-injured Rockie was worth the investment if he couldn’t stay on the field. No one questioned his ability to hit. Imagine our collective surprise, therefore, to find him out there every single day, healthy but unproductive. Right now he’s delivering a negative WAR of -0.5. For that he’s being paid $8.5 million. He’s the very definition of a sunk cost.
Lucas Duda Probably Wishes He’d Signed a Contract Extension
While the big man at first base has definitely got impressive power, a June swoon has him down to .259 with 10 HRs and 33 RBIs. While the average is consistent with what he produced last year, the power is way down and when it comes time to negotiate in the off-season the Mets have to consider whether or not he was a one-year fluke in the mold of Ike Davis.
The “Meh” Group
Ruben Tejada and Juan Lagares are having what for them are career average years with the bat. For Tejada it’s a step up from his past few seasons of frustration but for Lagares he’s not nearly as valuable as he once was due to the obvious injury to his arm that the team is failing to address. Without the highlight reel catches and throws he’s part of the problem, not the solution.
There appear to be only two obvious routes to improve the offense. You can look for a new shortstop or a new outfielder. Shortstop is a no brainer as Ruben Tejada is essentially a replacement level player.
What is a harder decision is what to do between LF and CF should a new slugging outfielder be acquired. You could make Cuddyer into a supersub, playing some time at 1B, 3B and OF, or you could disable Lagares (preferable) and let him address his ailing arm. That would likely necessitate putting Granderson in CF, but an outfield alignment of new guy in LF, Granderson in CF and Cuddyer in RF probably is more palatable to them than paying $8.5 million for a guy to sit on the bench.