For 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.