You would think that a team that has reached the postseason two years running would be stable enough so that in mid-October its fans would know who will be playing the majority of the positions in the next season. And, of course, when it comes to the 2017 edition of the New York Mets that would be incorrect.
In fact other than Asdrubal Cabrera returning as the starting shortstop every other position is up in the air. It’s true that Curtis Granderson figures to be in one of the outfield spots but like a game of Three-card Monte you figure to be wrong if you put your money on any one position right now.
At catcher the Mets are saying that Travis d’Arnaud is still their guy. This player put in another half season while spending plenty of time at his summer place, the disabled list. But while he was active he did not hit a lick. His .247/.307/.323 slash line is bad even for a catcher. The team may say he’s the guy but you have to think they will be on the lookout for something better. And that something does not figure to be Rene Rivera who is a capable understudy that would be woefully miscast in the starring role.
Third base will be manned by David Wright if he’s healthy. But really we know that counting on his health at this point is a fool’s bet.
Second base hinges on what the team does vis-à-vis Neil Walker and what he does. Does he get a Qualifying Offer for $17 million? Does he accept it? Does he sign elsewhere? Does he return to the Mets in a multiyear deal? This will be up in the air for a while.
The whole outfield will be in flux until the Yoenis Cespedes situation is decided. Will he opt out? Probably. Will he resign with the Mets or move on to even greener (pun intended) pastures? If he stays left field is his. If he goes then that position may go to Granderson or Jay Bruce, another whose Mets’ future is in doubt.
Center field might go to Juan Lagares but Granderson also could land here based on the Cespedes and Bruce decisions.
Which brings us to Keith Hernandez’s old stomping grounds, first base. Here’s who tackled the position in 2016.
Are you bowled over by these names? Agreed, this is a motley crew.
Clearly a healthy Duda is a legitimate fit for the position with adequate defensive skills and a power bat capable of launching 30 home runs in a season. Duda played fewer than a third of the team’s games in 2015 while recovering from a stress fracture in his back. The team will have an arbitration decision to make on him. The site MLB Trade Rumors is predicting that Duda will make about $6.7 million as an arbitration reward. This would be a perfectly reasonable sum for a healthy player with his skills. But backs are nasty injuries. If Sandy Alderson decides he can not count on Duda to return to his former self then he may not offer Duda a contract at all.
Other names you see from last year’s first basemen list are the overpaid but untalented Loney and the minimally paid but also overmatched Campbell. Loney was kicked to the curb by the Tampa Bay Rays because all he hit for them in 388 PA was a slash line of .280/.322/.357. Coming to Queens the Mets gave him 366 plate appearances and he similarly batted .265/.307/.397. I’ve written this before but will repeat it. This is not a major league player if his position is first base.
Campbell is also just quadruple A caliber at best.
Perhaps you could make a case for Wilmer Flores as the short half of a first base platoon but the club doesn’t have a candidate for the long half unless Duda is healthy and contributing.
With a possible glut of left hand hitting outfielders it might be possible to move either Michael Conforto or Bruce to first. Assuming the team picks up Bruce’s option he could be a reasonable candidate for the gig partly because he is not particularly spry in the outfield and he does throw lefty. He has played a few games in the majors at first but if given a full spring training, especially if Keith Hernandez could work with him a bit, he just might be competent by the time April rolls around.
The future at the position may belong to Dominic Smith. This is a young slick fielder who batted .302 at Double-A Binghamton last year. The knock on him has been his lack of power. He hit 14 homers in 2016. If he can improve his power stroke we may be seeing him at Citi Field some time in 2017 although it is more realistic to see him as a contributor to the 2018 squad.
So, who’s on first?
I don’t know.