Posted by Reese Kaplan at 10:00 AM
While everyone is well aware of the trade that wasn't which turned Wilmer Flores into something of a folk hero, what's lost in the rush to the post season is the maturity of the man as a fielder. He's been making a number of tough plays, showing more range than anyone felt he innately had to deliver. The bat has been a little quiet now but he can hold his head high with a regular season line of .263/16/59 in fewer than 500 ABs.
While the manager seems to go through periods where he falls in love with the backup shortstop, the fact remains that Flores is standing out more for his defense than his offense this post season. In fact, after the shakiness David Wright has shown, I've actually found myself willing the ball to Flores when it's hit on the left side of the infield.
Now no one is ever going to confuse him for Ozzie Smith, but I think just as the Wizard of Oz was a no-hit/all-glove player who made himself into a respectable player with the bat in his hand, I think we're seeing a similar growth with the leather from the man who was nearly a Brewer.
What this means to the Mets going forward is that it may be prudent to let him man the position for the 2016 season while Gavin Cecchini gets a full year of AAA under his belt. The risk, of course, is whether or not Dilson Herrera can translate his minor league success to the next level. That variable makes the decision whether or not to try to retain the services of Daniel Murphy a critical one. Throw in the real possibility of time lost to the DL for David Wright and his ailing back, the team might feel more comfortable having all three players – Flores, Herrera and Murphy – should they lose Wright for an extended period of time.
Despite his offensive comeback late in the year, Ruben Tejada is still an 8th-place hitter. Matt Reynolds was on the playoff roster due to Tejada's injury, but he never got a chance to play. Neither are likely long term starting solutions unless the team was fortified with a lot more offense elsewhere on the diamond.
Speaking of elsewhere, everyone assumes Michael Conforto and Curtis Granderson will comprise 2/3s of the Mets outfield. The question is who stands between them? Juan Lagares is showing some flashes of the offensive ability that made him more than just a Gold Glove fielder, but his defensive abilities are a pale shell of what he's shown in the past. I'm in full agreement with my friend Mack that Lagares needs to at least go under some exploratory surgery to find out what has transformed him from a lethal arm to a noodle arm in just one season.
Health will go a long ways towards helping this team's offense to complement all the young pitching. A full year of Travis d'Arnaud would strengthen the lineup immeasurably. While it's not clear what you will get from David Wright going forward, his 4-RBI night on Friday showed that there's still something in the tank.
Visibly absent from this conversation is the man in the neon-green sleeve. The Mets are in a somewhat no-win situation with Yoenis Cespedes. While he's cooled from the scorching pace he'd set after his arrival, he's twice driven in over 100 runs and his arm is what Lagares' used to be. Of course, there was that very conspicuous flub between him and Conforto that resulted in the inside-the-park home run to lead off Game One, but if he's told from day one he's the centerfielder he's athletic enough to make the adjustment.
Of course, any prospective offer for Cespedes probably comes at the expense of Daniel Murphy whose $15 million plus QO could be used to offset the new annual salary for Cespedes' next contract. If they let him walk, then they're back to the struggle for runs that plagued the team before August. (And it's unlikely that a Jason Heyward would come any cheaper).
There still plenty of time to make these decisions, however. The order of business now is getting behind Steven Matz to tie the series and reduce it to a best of three.
Let's Go Matz, er, Mets!