For a great many years the third base position for the New York Mets was a veritable black hole of mediocrity where a myriad of has-beens and never-weres were given the chance to grab hold of the position during the first 18 years of the club’s existence and make it their own. Some of these luminaries included Felix Mantilla, Charlie Neal, Charley Smith, Ed Charles, Ken Boyer, Joe Foy, Wayne Garrett, Bob Aspromonte, Jim Fregosi, Roy Staiger, Lenny Randle, Richie Hebner and Elliott Maddox who respectively led the team in games at the hot corner each year. After that it got markedly better with the arrivals of Hubie Brooks, Howard Johnson, Jeff Kent, Edgardo Alfonzo, Bobby Bonilla and Robin Ventura. Save for one lackluster year of Ty Wigginton in 2003, third base has ever since belonged to David Wright.
Unfortunately, the injury bug has been a large part of Wright’s tenure with the team and as recently as Monday morning Mack hinted that the team had better start planning for a successor given Wright’s rapid decline due to the spinal stenosis preparation that limits his baseball activities. The Sunday night opening game demonstrated on both sides of the field the diminished nature of Wright’s game. While you can’t push the panic button after just one game, it’s entirely possible that they may start quietly talking to the man about following in Michael Cuddyer’s footsteps rather than putting himself through the physical pain and media scrutiny as he battles a condition that cut short the careers of Don Mattingly, Lenny Dykstra and others.
Looking inside the organization there are a few ideas that quickly pop into my head as to how to handle this potential vacancy. Wilmer Flores has demonstrated an ability to hit the ball over the wall and drive in runs while not striking out. He’s got over 100 games of experience at 3B between the majors and the minors. As music to Fred Wilpon’s ears, he earns close to major league minimum and his defensive issues would be less conspicuous at 3B than they would be at SS. He would seem to be likely candidate number one. Will he ever post 30+ HRs with a .300 AVG like Wright did? Probably not…but then again neither will Wright and he’s earning over $20 million per year vs. about $600K.
The next obvious transition would be the oft-injured Travis d’Arnaud. He surely wouldn’t be the first catcher to shift counter clockwise on the diamond. Joe Torre, Pablo Sandoval and others started off as catchers before moving to 3B. It would resolve the throwing woes that d’Arnaud has demonstrated as well, but in effect it would mean replacing Wright’s bat with that of Kevin Plawecki (assuming he’s next in line for the catching gig). Plawecki is more of a singles/doubles hitter and that may not be as palatable a solution.
Asdubal Cabrera is under contract for two years and while he’s played quite a bit of 2B in his career the thinking by most would be that 3B is less challenging. Considering how his defense has kind of fallen off the map at SS, that may not be a bad move to make. Of course, you’re in effect robbing Peter to pay Paul in that you’d be banking on Gavin Cecchini or Matt Reynolds as the long term answer in 2017 at SS. I wouldn’t assume Flores would be in that mix as you could then just leave Cabrera where he is and slide Wilmer to 3B.
You could look to bring back Neil Walker who is due to become a FA and slide him to 3B where he’s played in the past as well, opening up 2B for Dilson Herrera. However, there are other FA options available next season, including the then 37 year old Adrian Belltre, Martin Prado or the big payday opportunity for ex-Met and current Dodger All-Star Justin Turner.
So, if this season is indeed David Wright’s swan song, how do you handle the big vacancy he leaves in the lineup?