Matt den Dekker and Wilmer Flores’ opportunity

Matt den DekkerThe Mets made the right decision in the beginning of August when they named Wilmer Flores the primary short stop for the remainder of the 2014 season. They tripled that good decision by releasing Chris Young, promoting Matt den Dekker and committing to a den Dekker and Eric Campbell platoon for the rest of the year. Let’s hope that den Dekker and Flores understand what this opportunity is about because it could be the one shot they have to stick in the major leagues.

Let’s analyze this for a moment. The Mets are not that far from contention. That might appear to be ridiculous, considering their record and lack of competitiveness over the past four years, but when you look at them position by position, it becomes obvious. Lucas Duda is having a career year and, at the least, is a power hitting platoon player. If he can hit lefties, which is his try out through August and September, then he’s the everyday first baseman the Mets can use to bridge to a prospect like Dominic Smith. Daniel Murphy was an All Star this season. David Wright, despite a poor offensive season, will still produce and 3 plus WAR and is still a top 10 third baseman in the major leagues. Curtis Granderson has been solid since his awful start and Juan Lagares has shown that he has a little bit of a bat to go along with spectacular defense. Travis d’Arnaud had an awful start to the season, but has since hit like the elite catching prospect everyone said he was. The pitching staff speaks for itself.

You may have noticed that two positions were left out. The major reason for the Mets mediocrity this season has been a total lack of production in left field and at short stop. Defensively the players in those positions have been fine, but offensively they’ve basically been non-productive. This is where Flores and den Dekker come in.

For den Dekker, this could be his one opportunity. den Dekker will turn 27 in August, too old to still be considered a prospect with upside if he doesn’t make it this year. He is an elite defensive player, which might earn him a spot as a fourth outfielder somewhere, but any chance he has to be an everyday or platoon player, is totally reliant on these last two months. den Dekker’s career so far has been marred by the strikeout, which he seemed to fix this year in Las Vegas. So far, that part of his game has translated as he hasn’t struck out in the 16 plate appearances he’s had since his recall. He’s also hit .333 in that time period, so he’s off to a good start. The problem has been an utter lack of power. He’s had one extra base hit since his recall and only has five extra base hits in 128 career big league plate appearances. The Mets can’t afford to have two versions of Lagares in the outfield. den Dekker needs to either show some power or prove that his lower strike out rate can lead him to bat in the leadoff spot.

What makes this such a great opportunity for den Dekker is that the offseason is fairly devoid of outfield talent. The two best free agents are probably Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera, who both carry major concerns.  Cruz’s numbers look good, but three things are problematic. One is that he’s played over half of his games as a designated hitter, which he obviously wouldn’t be able to do in the National League. The second is that his numbers, which appear to be exactly what the Mets need (31 home runs and 83 RBI), are misleading. In April and May, Cruz hit 20 home runs, knocked in 52 runs and batted .315 with a .675 SLG. Since June 1st, Cruz has hit .219 with a .393 SLG, 11 home runs and 31 RBI. Since the All Star break he has been particularly pitiful, batting .169 with a 581 OPS, which you can note is lower than his SLG was alone over his first 203 at bats. When all of that is added to the fact that he’ll be 35 next year and will not sign for anything less than a multi-year contract, it’s difficult to see him as a viable option. Cabrera is more ideal as he will only be 30 next year and is having another solid season, but he’s also a former steroid guy who played terribly last year. He’s been clean this year, but is he worth a multi-year deal? Do we want to trade for Carlos Gonzalez and his many injuries (which now includes knee tendinitis) or deal our entire system away for Giancarlo Stanton, if he even becomes available and the Marlins are willing to trade him in the division?

So den Dekker has a good shot here. If he can hit with some power and show he won’t be a strike out issue, then he might just be the teams’ left fielder next year to start the season.

Flores has a higher hill to climb. Flores is playing for a spot in the major leagues it’s just debatable if it will be as a New York Met. Flores has held his own at short stop, but he just doesn’t have the range to play there for the Mets. With Murphy as an offensive oriented short stop, the Mets can’t afford to have a similarly oriented short stop. If Murphy was an elite fielder, then Flores’ chances would be higher to stick at short as he’s shown a solid glove on the balls he gets to and the ability to make the necessary throws. But with better defensive options in the free agent market (Asdrubal Cabrera and JJ Hardy), he’s going to have to show he can hit and do so with power.  Matt Reynolds has torn up Binghamton and Las Vegas this year and is a better fielder than Flores, while the aforementioned Hardy and Cabrera are also better hitters, at this point. Flores has been highly touted for his bat and RBI potential. The ability to knock in runs has sporadically shown itself in the majors, but his power hasn’t.

But let’s be real about this. Even if his power does show itself, it might be a foregone conclusion that Flores is gone. If he hits decently the remainder of the year and the Mets can upgrade at shortstop, they will, while using Flores as a trade chip. He’s young enough that if he doesn’t play well this year, he could still develop, but that won’t be with the Mets if he doesn’t hit.

So if one could handicap this situation, it’s probably more likely that den Dekker is playing regularly for this team next year than Flores. If he continues to hit, shows some pop, gets on base and limits his strike outs, the Mets will more than likely start next year with den Dekker in at least a platoon, while looking to upgrade the lineup at shortstop. That also could create the best defensive outfield in baseball, one that the pitchers will love. Of course, Flores could tear the cover off of the ball and the Mets could look to trade Murphy also to open up a better defensive spot for Flores, but that’s not even on the table until Flores starts smashing the ball around major league stadiums. This will be an interesting few months, with the young guys getting a chance to shine. Let’s hope they do.

25 comments for “Matt den Dekker and Wilmer Flores’ opportunity

  1. August 15, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    How many teams will be looking to add a SS to their starting line up Scott? Put all those teams in front of the Mets before you can “secure” one of them. The Orioles, Red Soxs, Yankees, Tigers, Phillies?,Dodgers all will either re-sign their own FA SS or choose from the group available to them. Do you think SA is going to run out there in the beginning of free agency and sign one of these players to a mulri-year 40-50 million dollar contract? Not after his Chris Young fiasco. Ownership is going to tighten his belt and his options.

  2. August 15, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Melky Cabrera. When he played in the National League he was the one outfielder who routinely played worse defense than Lucas Duda, but at least Duda had the excuse he was playing out of position. Cabrera is possibly the worst outfielder in all of baseball and has no pop. Nelson Cruz at least is a bopper but I would stay away from both and sign the power hitting Cuban Tomas. He will fit in perfectly slotting in either in right or left field and he has plus power which is what the Mets are looking for in an outfield bat. Realistically either Lagares or denDekker should be traded in the offseason. This is why I hate Terry Collins sometimes. denDekker ought to be batting first so the Mets can see if he can handle the leadoff position. I guess we all should be glad that he is getting playing time. Flores is a third baseman. He has too good of an arm to waste it at second and now that he is moving better laterally I think that’s where he ends up on another team. Even third isn’t a perfect position for Flores as he seems to take a lot of time getting up after he dives and then he often has problems with transitioning to throw. Perfect scenario would be trading one of Gee, Niese, Colon along with one of Syndergaard, Matz, Molina and Plawecki to Cubs for both Addison Russell and Jorge Soler. That would leave only the Mets needing a short term gap solution at short until Russell is ready so say someone like J.J. Hardy. As much as I would love to see Mets sign one of the Cuban players that just doesn’t seem to be Sandy Alderson’s style.

    • Scott Ferguson
      August 15, 2014 at 2:35 pm

      I’d forgotten about Tomas. Rusney Castillo is available right now.

    • Chris F
      August 15, 2014 at 5:17 pm

      Maybe you are watching a different Flores than I am. He has about the weakest arm Ive seen. He has made a string of throwing errors already, and at MLB speed has no chance to make it as a big league 3B. Theo and Jed would be run out of Chicago and put in an asylum for trading, say Niese and Syndergaard and Plawecki for Addison Russell and Soler. Thats a serious overvalue of Met talent.

  3. Wilponzi
    August 15, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    If Collins was serious about DenDekker and Flores. DenDekker would be leading off and Flores would be hitting 5th or 6th. The Mets have no lead off hitter. Granderson is best hitting second. Flores how has a history of producing RBI’s is wasted hitting 8th. Although I was disappointed this week when he came up with the bases loaded and on the first pitch hit a weak grounder to third. I thought he had a chance to change the game, and failed.

    • Metstheory22
      August 15, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      I agree with above. He should have put Flores in as soon as he came up, instead of sitting him again (capitals) until he cooled off. Lineup should be:
      den Decker
      Wright or Flores
      Granderson or Wright
      Flores or Granderson

      • August 15, 2014 at 2:21 pm

        If that’s a line up you can’t bat Granderson in the 7 hole. Not at 15 million a year.

        • Metstheory22
          August 15, 2014 at 5:40 pm

          You can’t hit him leading off either but that is what he is doing. If he was supplying power and rbi’s he should be 5th.

  4. Name
    August 15, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    “he’s going to have to show he can hit and do so with power”

    How about we attach some real numbers instead of generalized statements for Flores so we can evaluate him at the end of the season.
    In everyone’s own eyes, what kind of slash line does Flores have to put up from when TC named him as the starter to prove he
    a) can be a utility player next year?
    b) should be the starting SS next year?

    I’ll get us started.
    a) .250/.300/.375
    b) .290/.340/.430

    • August 15, 2014 at 1:41 pm

      I tihnk Flores is to young to label him as a “utility” player. Play him every day and if he can produce 280-290/320-340/420 But TC needs to bat him ih the same spot in the line up as well. I would then look for the Mets to adjust Tejada’s role as the back up SS/ 2nd base man..A role better suited for him.

      • Name
        August 15, 2014 at 3:33 pm

        He’s batting him consistently 8th in the week since he named him the starter.

        And a side note:
        For those who think that Tejada’s OBP was mostly a product of him batting 8th, Flores has Zero walks during his time there.

    • August 15, 2014 at 3:07 pm

      Currently, there are 12 NL shortstops with enough PA to qualify for the FG Leaderboards. Only Hanley Ramirez and Jhonny Peralta top the .770 OPS you have Flores needing to be a starter. Only five have a mark above .700 and three of the 12 have an OPS below .600

      Now, they are all probably better fielders than Flores, so we’ll have to build in a discount. I don’t think Flores should be under consideration for the starting SS job. But playing along, I would say he would need to post a .690 OPS to merit consideration.

      As for the utility player, Tejada has a .618 mark right now. Flores needs to be better than that – assuming you’re comfortable with a bad-glove backup. How about .640 OPS for the utility role.

      Meanwhile, Flores has started the last eight games and has a .250/.250/.250 line for a .500 OPS

      • Jerry Grote
        August 15, 2014 at 3:21 pm

        so we are setting the bar at making this squad within two dozen points of sub 600 OPS?

        Why not just trot DeGrom out there four days a week? 🙂

      • Name
        August 15, 2014 at 3:21 pm

        Yea, my slash lines are high because i’m discounting his defense a lot, and partially because he’s going to be facing September pitching really soon.

      • Jerry Grote
        August 15, 2014 at 3:32 pm

        this is pretty crude, but work with me on it … so Flores has a RF of about 3.52. (BTW, this is consistent with his LV numbers I believe).

        The average NL SS gets to 4.26, so let’s say that every four games Flores costs you 2 singles (.75 *4). A hitter will get to 18 ABs in four games so Flores will need to be .111 more productive than any other average-ish SS.

        Does that seem fair?

        • August 15, 2014 at 4:18 pm

          If Flores allows 2 additional singles every four games – a huge amount – that would be 74 hits over a full season (148 games).

          You may want to double-check this, but my recollection is that a single in Linear Weights is worth an average of .46 runs. 74 * .46 = 34.04 runs. Ten runs equals a win, so he would cost his team nearly three and a half wins compared to an average SS on defense alone. That’s about equal to the positive difference with the glove that Juan Lagares had over an average CF in 2013.

          While I’m not a Flores fan — my gut feeling is that he’s not that bad on defense.

          But, if he is this bad on defense, he’d have to be one of the top 20 hitters in baseball just to get back to average. And that’s factoring in the position adjustment for SS and assuming he would be an average baserunner, which might be a bit generous. So, if his defense is this bad, he’d have to hit like 2013 Joe Mauer (27.5 wRAA) to be an average player.

    • Jerry Grote
      August 15, 2014 at 3:16 pm

      I think Flores has only two outcomes:

      he is the new starting SS in Queens
      he is playing elsewhere.

      Flores has no value to the Mets at any position other than SS. Or at least, he is more valuable to another team as a potential starter than he does to us on the bench, and so he should be packaged and shuffled out of town.

      The Amos Otis of our age.

      • Name
        August 15, 2014 at 3:30 pm

        Personally, i don’t see Flores having much trade value at all, and definitely not as much as most Mets fan think of him.
        He’s produced a miserable .549 OPS (57 OPS+) in the majors, doesn’t have a great position, and hasn’t routinely been on a top prospect list since 2011.

        The only saving grace for him is some name recognition and age.

        I would say he has even less trade value than Jonathan Villar, and would you give up much for him or think of anything more than a throw-in if it was a package?

        • Jerry Grote
          August 15, 2014 at 4:17 pm

          You know who’s also 22 and produced an actual lower OPS+ than Wilmer Flores?

          Oscar Tavares.

          • Name
            August 15, 2014 at 4:24 pm

            He was a consensus top5 prospect (if not 2/3) for two years running. Flores barely cracks anyone’s top 100 over the past 3 years.
            He’s also a full year younger than Flores.

            Most hardcore non-STL baseball fans and some non-STL casual fans probably know who Tavares is. Only some hardcore non-NY fans and probably only a few non-NY casual fans know who Flores is.

            But Tavaras’ stock has tumbled. Both bat wise and fielding-He apparently isn’t suited to play CF.

  5. Wilponzi
    August 15, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Pete, I agree with you. I don’t think Flores should be hitting behind Lagares or DenDeckker, because of his history of driving in runs.

  6. Peter Hyatt
    August 15, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    If these two do not become hitters at the MLB level, will the Mets consider trading Matt Harvey for a top tier hitter, given how difficult he is becoming?

    What was once unthinkable, might just become something talked about.

  7. August 15, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    Granderson should not be leading off either. To me you lose his opportunities to hit homeruns with runners on base. Which I do believe was the idea of signing him. Just another bad idea rom tne grandmaster of bad ideas. If TC had a brain and new how to use it at least flip Murphy and Grandy for a right handed starter and use Lagares against lefties to lead off.

  8. Patrick Albanesius
    August 16, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    I hate Granderson batting leadoff. Flores is a not quite a thrown-in player, but he will not be a centerpiece of any trade other than a 1-1 deal. I have not been impressed with his fielding in the past, but to be fair I haven’t been able to watch games on the west coast. If he’s improved, great. But he was thought to be a offense-minded talent, and so far in some now regular time, he has been OK at best. He could easily prove me wrong and I’m sure his trade stock would rise if he looked like a serviceable SS.

  9. Steve L
    August 18, 2014 at 11:13 am

    “The Mets are not that far from contention. That might appear to be ridiculous, considering their record and lack of competitiveness over the past four years, but when you look at them position by position, it becomes obvious.”

    So if we ignore their record, the Mets are close to contention? Fantastic!!!

    Flores is pretty brutal at SS, and I don’t see him getting much better. I think his bat will eventually play in the majors, but needs to move to 2B or (ideally) 3B. And I cringe at the thought of Murphy and Flores as our middle infield in 2015. It would be the exact opposite of our Ordonez-Alfonso defensive heyday.

    I think they either need to trade Murphy or Flores, and then commit to the other at 2B. For Murphy that means a 3-4 year deal (buying out his last arb year in 2015), for Wilmer it just means sticking with him even if he struggles early next year. Maybe shop both in the offseason and trade whomever you get the best deal for.

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