Posted by Reese Kaplan at 8:00 AM
Welcome to part 4 of the 11 part series on the 2017 New York Mets roster (assuming the choices exist among the existing personnel in the majors and minors). Today we'll take a look at a position that has not been in question for many, many years -- third base.
The 800 pound gorilla in the room is David Wright and his extremely expensive contract. How expensive? The Mets are still on the hook for another $67 million, $20 million each of the next two years, then $15 million, then $12 million. For everyone who says he should just retire, would YOU walk away voluntarily from $67 million? Regardless of how his rehab progresses, it's highly unrealistic to go into this off season as they did the previous two with no Plan B in place. He's appeared in 75 games in the last two seasons combined. His last full season without injury was back in 2012 two years before the advent of Apple Pay. Yes, it's been a long, long time.
So what do you do about this situation? I'm thinking that you work out a new Bobby Bonilla deal in which you pay him a significant amount of money each year pretty much for the rest of his life, but get out from under the immediate financial burden. More importantly, it allows the Mets to begin a new era instead of clinging to what might have been. Go into the off season with a firm plan that he is done and unable to play ever again. What's the worst that could happen? He comes back healthy and ready to play? That would be wonderful, but DON'T COUNT ON IT.
For whatever reason, the baseball gods have dictated that corner infield positions are to be manned by sluggers whereas middle infield positions can be handled by people who have other offensive talents. Reyes has been a great stopgap solution this year, though some might argue Wilmer Flores has had greater value. Still, the Mets are by nature a very conservative organization and towards that end Reyes is likelier to be shifted to 2nd base to allow the slugging Flores or someone else who is more a middle-of-the-order threat than the leadoff talents of Reyes.
The man without a position has logged a lot of time at this position and his offensive output over the past two seasons suggest he's a 25 HR hitter in the making. Whether he's available to do so depends on what they do at 1B and whether or not he works his way out of the manager's doghouse.
His resurgence this year has drawn parallels (on a lesser scale) to how Daniel Murphy has reinvented himself in the latter part of his career. His ability to play 1st, 2nd, 3rd and the outfield suggest he's a valuable commodity (as evidenced by them twice trading for him in consecutive years), but as a starter I don't think that's his role anymore.
Another low power option, he could provide a solid 2nd place batter in the order behind Jose Reyes, but again the club is likely going to be seeking a power hitting option for the hot corner. Rivera has a likely role coming off the bench.
For the same reason they might consider moving him to first, he could follow the Joe Torre career trajectory and start his migration to the infield at 3B. He would not take the abuse he does behind the dish, though 3B is the longest throw of anywhere in the infield and he's not proven particularly adept with his arm.
My preference and the reality are two very different things. For example, the easiest thing for the Mets to do is to retain Lucas Duda at 1B and hand 3B to Wilmer Flores. I've already suggested a platoon of Flores at 1B or handing him the job outright makes sense. Therefore he would not be available to play 3B. I already penciled in Jose Reyes for 2B. Therefore my preference is for the 3B solution to come from outside the organization. However, given Sandy Alderson's track record regarding David Wright, he is likely not willing to do so for fear of having another capable player on his roster if by some miracle David Wright recovers completely.