Addressing the Mets’ need for a leadoff hitter

New logoFor a good portion of 2016, the Mets have used Curtis Granderson as their leadoff hitter. With a .224 batting average and .314 on base percentage, his performance has been a weak link in the chain. As a team, the Mets rank near the bottom of the league in stolen bases and nowhere this is more apparent than at the top of the lineup. Granderson is no longer the stolen base threat that he was earlier in his career and his inability to get on base really hurts the team.

The Mets have young talent on the horizon in Amed Rosario and Gavin Cecchini. Rosario and Cecchini would fit in nicely in the number two slot. They both can steal bases, but don’t project to steal them at a prolific rate. The problem is that they are both currently shortstops. Cecchini could move positions, but does not have the arm to play third and could be moved over to play second base. David Wright has been a great Met, but his best days are behind him. Even before this latest back problem, he has only been a shell of himself, even hitting in the two hole. His career has a lot of parallels to Don Mattingly. It is time that the brass have the retirement discussion with him. Unfortunately, his contract runs through 2020. Maybe they can capitalize on the injury insurance policy that they have on his contract.

The Mets have had great trouble scoring runs. The Mets rank next to last in major league baseball in runs scored with 450 and are only ahead of the Atlanta Braves. In 86, the Mets had Lenny Dykstra and Mookie Wilson at the top of the lineup. They had 56 stolen bases between them and Darryl Strawberry added 28. The Mets led the National League with 783 runs scored.

With Rosario or Cecchini possibly being able to fill the second slot in the lineup, a la Wally Backman, the Mets need a new leadoff hitter. With one year remaining on his contract, it is time to cut ties with Granderson now. The Mets need a table setter who can get on base and steal bases.

The Mets could look to free agents to find a leadoff hitter. Dexter Fowler could fill the role nicely, but he has a $ 9 million mutual contract option. Ian Desmond has had a resurgence in Texas, but it is probably not realistic to expect that he can continue his resurgence in 2017. He could end up with similar numbers as Granderson.

Any trade for an established leadoff hitter would probably cost the Mets pitching. After this year’s injuries and trying to rely on Logan Verrett and Jonathon Niese to fill in effectively as a 5th starter has failed. I would not trade valuable pitching assets for an established leadoff hitter. It would be too costly.

So, the question becomes, what prospect could the Mets pry loose to fill their need? I would target Mallex Smith of the Atlanta Braves. Smith is a 23 year old center fielder who made his major league debut in 2016, but is currently on the disabled list with a fractured thumb. In Atlanta, he was only hitting .237 in 169 at bats. In 2015, between AA and AA, he hit .306 with a .373 on base percentage. More importantly, he stole 57 bases. Smith is the Braves tenth ranked prospect according to Baseball America.

The Braves being in a rebuilding mode, would probably be looking for more prospects. Rosario would not be an option because they have Dansby Swanson who just made his debut and Ozzie Albies on the horizon at AA. I may be tempted to trade Michael Conforto straight up for Smith, but that would be a tough one to swallow. More likely, I would start by building a package around Brandon Nimmo and another prospect such as Robert Gsellman. In giving up a talent like Smith, the Mets would have to overpay for Smith. The final package may be Nimmo, Cecchini and another lower level prospect for Smith.

At the time that the Mets acquired Gary Carter, they paid at the time what looked like a hefty price with Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Floyd Youmans and Herm Winningham. Carter was one of the final pieces of the puzzle in building their championship roster. Sandy, let’s be bold and go out and acquire a good young player like Smith and move towards rather than filling in the roster with older players who are past their prime such as Jose Reyes and James Loney.

9 comments for “Addressing the Mets’ need for a leadoff hitter

  1. David Groveman
    August 19, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    Are we equating Gary Carter to Mallex Smith?

    The Mets got Carter as an established MLB player with a proven track record. Smith is not close to that.

    While Smith makes a little sense for the Mets he doesn’t make enough sense for the Mets to trade anything the Braves would want for him.

    Gavin Cecchini, Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares deserve a chance to apply to be leadoff candidates.

    • Mike Walczak
      August 19, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      I am not equating Carter to Mallex Smith. I am equating it to the Mets making the right moves to build their roster. I think that Nimmo and Cecchini could be fine number two hitters. In 2013 and 2015, Lagares had a combined OBP of around .300 with 20 stolen bases with 400+ AB each season, so I still stand behind the Mets needing a leadoff hitter.

      • David Groveman
        August 19, 2016 at 3:14 pm

        That’s fine, but we cannot trade players within our Top 10 prospects for mediocre talent like Smith.

        Carter was the difference when the Mets got him. The Met offense is so broken right now (worse in 2017) that getting a leadoff hitter wouldn’t be bad, but is only one of many concerns.

  2. Pal88
    August 19, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    I’d give them DeAza , Kelly, Verrett, Campbell, Plawecki,…obviously just kidding, but to suggest we give up Comforto or Nimmo for Mallex Smith was kidding as well…right?

  3. Chris F
    August 19, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Welcome to mets360 Mike.

    I think a leadoff guy is certainly a think we need to look at, but the situation is more complicated than just that. Although Conforto is scuffling in the Show, we are talking about a guy with expectations to be a 3 hitter for many years. He went too fast though the system, and the game caught up with him. His ceiling relative to Smith not even comparable. So I guess that means you want to link CF with leadoff, but remember Rosario could get a call up next year and has been so good with on-base and BA, I cant help but wonder if he has genuine leadoff potential. I think the batting lefty on Smith is a major detractor. This team needs some righty batters.

    • Mike Walczak
      August 19, 2016 at 7:46 pm

      Just like the early 70’s, great pitching, weak hitting. You all make good points. We may get the trifecta next year of 3 years in a row of not scoring enough runs.

  4. Glenn
    August 19, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    Jose Reyes has looked like the old Reyes recently and the Mets also have him signed for next season

  5. MattyMets
    August 19, 2016 at 8:48 pm

    Welcome aboard, Mike. Sandy doesn’t believe in speed – hence shrinking the ball park, letting Reyes leave, trading away Pagan, etc. He’s an American League guy who puts too much emphasis on homers and walks and not enough on speed and defense. I think he’s right in thinking to build a good enough lineup around great pitching, but injuries and under-performance foiled that plan in 2016 thus far.

    I thought Grandy made for a solid leadoff hitter last year and I love the guy, but Terry’s love affair with him needs to stop. Not only do I not think he’s a top of the order guy anymore but I no longer think he’s an everyday player. It may be time to consider buying out his contract. I’m not sure what trade value he has. At a minimum, he should be dropped in the lineup and should not face lefties anymore.

    • Chris F
      August 19, 2016 at 11:06 pm

      +1

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