Juan Lagares deserves a full-time shot

The Mets’ outfield now has an open slot since the trading of Jay Bruce to Cleveland. Yoenis Cespedes plays in left field (when healthy) and Michael Conforto has shuttled some between center field and right field. Curtis Granderson and Brandon Nimmo have been splitting time in the other outfield position. There is now a different player in the mix, fielding whiz Juan Lagares, fresh off the disabled list.

Lagares should be playing every day in center field for the rest of the season. He needs to be batting against both right-handed and left-handed pitching for the remainder of 2017, and if he succeeds, pencil him in as the opening day center fielder in 2018.

Lagares has been with the Mets since 2013, and there has never been a question about his defense, it is dazzling at times. He has great range, great instincts and a strong, accurate arm. He has a lifetime MLB UZR rating of 56.8 according to FanGraphs, and of course he won a Gold Glove in 2014. He has missed significant time to injury during his tenure, especially last season and this season.

His offense over his career has been more problematic. His slash line for this season, in 49 games, is .266/.314/.404, and that’s not going to bowl anyone over. But in June, in a small sample, he was batting more like Mike Trout with a slash line of .355/.344/.581. The BA is higher than the OBP because he had a sacrifice fly, which is counted in the OBP but not the BA.

That sample was so small in June because he fractured his thumb on a diving attempt to make a catch, sending him to the DL. That is the way Lagares plays… he goes all out when he is on the field.

It would really be beneficial if Lagares could work on his patience at the plate for the rest of the year, he does not draw many walks. An improvement in OBP combined with his above average speed could result in him batting leadoff, a place in the batting order that the Mets have had trouble with at times over the past few years.

Lagares put up good numbers in the 2015 post-season and seemed poised to get a full time role in 2016, however the Mets somewhat surprisingly managed to lock up Cespedes on a long term deal, blocking Lagares. Then in 2016, Bruce was acquired at the trade deadline, putting yet another obstacle in Lagares’ path.

Granderson is a fine clubhouse presence, but he is 36 and his best days are behind him. The Mets have been actively trying to trade him, and his contract does expire at the end of the season. Nimmo does not have much power, and seems better suited to be a fourth outfielder than a starter.

Lagares is 28 years old, an age that is right in the prime for baseball players. If he can get extensive playing time for the rest of the year and keep his batting somewhat close to his June offensive production, he could be a real force for the Mets, perhaps for years to come.

18 comments for “Juan Lagares deserves a full-time shot

  1. David Groveman
    August 15, 2017 at 9:16 am

    The Mets have two “Middle of the Order” hitters right now.

    Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes are going to be hitting 3rd and 4th for the Mets for a while.

    Amed Rosario will eventually lead off and we are hoping that Dominic Smith can hit to the levels where he makes sense as a #5 or #6 hitter in the lineup in 2018.

    If Wilmer Flores is given second base and D’Arnaud is catching, that means the Mets need to figure out center and third.

    Shedding Duda, Bruce and Granderson should clear up more than enough money for a Mike Moustakas and if the Mets get a big bat like his, they can afford to have Juan Lagares play center.

    If we look to save money on a position we are already paying David Wright to play then we need more offense than Lagares can actually generate.

    • Eraff
      August 15, 2017 at 9:38 am

      I believe it makes sense to see him and Nimmo Play—I hate the words “Deserves a Shot”—- He doesn’t Deserve anything. He gets what “He Gets”….he earns it

      • Jimmy P
        August 15, 2017 at 1:14 pm

        The best argument in Lagares’ favor is that he’s owed $9.5 million in 2018.

        That’s a compelling reason to give him time on the field. Maybe he shows us something, maybe he catches someone’s eye.

        It’s all about the finger puzzle. Big free agent at 3B leads one to think they could cobble together CF. Or maybe the answer is a big name in CF, such as Cain, and cobble together 3B w/ Cabrera.

        Is Lagares a $4 million player on the open market? Would Mets need to give a team $6 million in order to move him? Seems like a theme around here.

  2. August 15, 2017 at 9:50 am

    Lagares’ June offensive production which seems to have people excited about him again came in all of 12 games and 33 PA. And it came with a .400 BABIP.

    We’ve seen this movie before and it doesn’t end well.

  3. Eraff
    August 15, 2017 at 10:59 am

    I’ve seen some changes in Juan over the past two years—- between injuries, it’s been too brief to determine if it’s a Mirage.

    I’m a Fan of Moustakas and Jay Bruce…. Pray for the Pitchers….take a shot in ’18. My sense is that the Mets will not like Long and Large Commitments to Jay, Moose and Ces.

    That would leave us with Lego and Nimmo as 4/5 Outfielders, which would be ideal. Otherwise, a CF Platoon with MC in Right….Moose at 3rd…Option on Droobs?

  4. August 15, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Between injuries and roster moves, it always feels like Lagares never gets consistent playing time. If like to find out once and for all if we have a starting center fielder, an all-star, a reserve or a bust. Send him out there every day. When does he become a FA?

    • John Fox
      August 15, 2017 at 2:21 pm

      Mike,
      he becomes a free agent after the 2019 season. And I agree completely on the rest of your comment, you summed up what I was saying in the article

  5. Jeff Gillard
    August 15, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    He needs to play consistently. He has proven he is not a great pinch hitter or spot starter. Each time the Mets have played him consistently he has excelled. Use the remaining 48 games to get him at bats against righties and lefties. When healthy, Lagares is the best CFer in MLB.

    Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

  6. Pete from NJ
    August 15, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    The team needs a right handed hitting outfielder for next year. Unfortunately from the other writers: “9.5 million” has him pencilled in somewhere and “seen that movie”, for sure. But our crosstown rivals have an Aaron Hicks who seems to have been a Lageres sort of player. If it can happen in the Bronx can it happen in Queens?

    So yes he needs to play.

    • August 15, 2017 at 2:47 pm

      Comparing Juan Lagares and Aaron Hicks is wishcasting.

      Until Lagares adds power to his game, he’s a 4th OF. This year Hicks has a .305 BABIP and a .907 OPS. When Lagares had a .308 BABIP, he had a .644 OPS.

      • DED
        August 15, 2017 at 3:25 pm

        Teams can and have won with good centerfielders who didn’t contribute much with the bat. It’s that important a defensive position. I believe the difference between Lagares’ fielding over Conforto’s, say, would more than justify his place in the lineup.

        Iff — as in, if and only if, like they say in math class — Lagares can stay on the field. That would be my objection, that Lagares’ style of play leads to time recuperating, every year it seems.

        • August 15, 2017 at 3:30 pm

          The 1968 Tigers won with Ray Oyler and his .399 OPS playing shortstop. I wouldn’t advise a team to try to duplicate that feat.

        • Jimmy P
          August 15, 2017 at 5:05 pm

          This is a legitimate point of view. Defense matters. I always hoped Lagares could carry a .725 OPS, I felt that’s where he needed to be in order to justify his place in the lineup.

          In addition, you can’t have black holes anywhere else.

          So, yeah, could work if the other pieces are in place. And you could argue that because the money is spent already, might as well go with it.

          If that’s the case, I’d look to add another very good 4th outfielder to the mix. A RH bat who can play the corner when Mets shift Conforto back to CF.

          Not advocating for this, but I think it’s legitimate to carry one key glove in a ML lineup.

          • DED
            August 16, 2017 at 1:07 pm

            That is what I had in mind; Gary Maddux, Cesar Geronimo, that sort of player. Neither was a cypher at the plate, but their main contribution was on the other side of the ball.

  7. Pete In Iowa
    August 15, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    Lagares has nearly 1,500 major league AB’s and his slash line is a rather ugly .259/.299/.368 and an OPS of .667. I’d say he’s had his shot and at this point, he is what those numbers say he is. I will say he is an above average defender, although he has slipped considerably from his Gold Glove form of 2014.
    If someone should get an everyday shot the balance of the season, I’d say it’s Nimmo. I feel fairly confident he would prove himself to be a better hitter than Lagares. Neither has any power to speak of and both have good speed. Nimmo would be better in right field, which is fine, as Conforto, I believe, has shown he is a very adequate defender in center.

  8. Metsense
    August 15, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    ^ JP :To clarify some misconceptions about Lagares, 2018 salary $6.5 M, 2019 salary $9.0 M and a free agent in 2020.
    ^ David G: I tend to agree but I’m not sure that obtaining one bat is enough to sustain Lagare’s offense.
    ^ Iowa Pete: Nimmo should get a shot like you say but I am not confident he could be a starter.
    ^ Eraff : a good summation but unlike you I think the Mets will spend the money for another power bat and also for other positions.
    Metsense: Lagares is a good 4th or 5th outfieder and with a strong offensive team could be a starter but I don’t foresee the Mets having that kind of offense.

  9. Steevy
    August 15, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    You can give him a shot but besides his downsides as an offensive player he has also never been able to stay healthy for a season.

  10. Jimmy P
    August 15, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    Big, big topic here and I don’t have the time to lay it all out, but essentially:

    The Mets should know their own players.

    They should have a clear idea at this point about Juan Lagares. He’s been in the system for, what, 8 years? They’ve watched him up close, worked with him on a daily basis, seen him in the clubhouse.

    Same with Daniel Murphy.

    Same with Justin Turner.

    Same with Angel Pagan.

    They have far, far better information about the character and talent of that player than we do. This internal scouting is so important and this organization keeps getting it wrong.

    So many give Mets a free pass on Turner, but if you look at his monthly splits, something was happening late in 2013. They decided it wasn’t real. They got that wrong.

    They need to make the right call about these guys. It’s not easy, and it’s not always possible, but that’s the key to running a baseball team: really knowing who you’ve got.

    It’s why Omar signing Perez was so maddening. We knew that guy. We had him in our clubhouse. We should have known better.

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