With Jay Bruce back, attention turns back to the infield

Kudos to Sandy Alderson for waiting out the market and bringing back Jay Bruce on a reasonable contract. No, he’s not a perfect player, but he clearly fills a number of needs. However, at last check, the power hitting right fielder/first baseman can’t bat lead off or play second or third base, so at least one more move is needed to round out the Mets’ lineup.

If recent reports are accurate, the cost-conscious Mets may not have much money left to spend. Alderson has reportedly been flirting with trades in hopes of not only adding an infielder, but also unloading a player or two (A.J. Ramos, Juan Lagares) to offset the salary of someone like Josh Harrison, Cesar Hernandez or Jason Kipnis. Kipnis is reportedly off the market now, and Harrison would not be the most exciting addition. Hernandez, on the other hand, could provide nice defense at the keystone and add speed to the lineup from the leadoff spot.

If a trade can’t be worked out, there are a number of options in free agency. It initially appeared that big ticket items like third basemen Mike Moustakas and Todd Frazier would be out of reach, but this winter waiting game has fueled speculation that these two hot corner bats might have to settle for fewer years and dollars. The Mets are reportedly “monitoring the situation.” Either would plug the hole at third, shifting Asdrubal Cabrera to second base, and slot in fifth or sixth in the lineup. However, this alignment would leave us with a gaping hole atop the lineup. As this blogger made the case on last week’s Mets 360 podcast, the Mets’ biggest hole is not at second or third base, but rather the leadoff spot. A better and cheaper option is Eduardo Nunez. The 30-year-old speedster who came up as a Yankees utility man has developed into a nice player. Traded midseason the last two years, Nunez put up some solid numbers. Last season for the Giants and Red Sox he put up a .313/.341/.460 slash line with 12 home runs, 33 doubles and 24 steals. The prior year for the Twins and Giants, he slashed .288/.325/.432 with 16 home runs, 24 doubles, and 40 steals, good enough to earn an invite to the 2016 All Star game.

Should these third base options not fall into place, there are some cheaper options are available at the keystone, including Brandon Phillips, Jose Reyes and Howie Kendrick. Phillips brings defense, leadership and durability. Last season, between Atlanta and Los Angeles, the 36-year-old righty hit .285 with 13 home runs, 34 doubles, 60 RBI and 11 SBs. The three time All Star and four time Gold Glove winner just completed a hefty six-year contract, but given his age, he’s not likely to receive another multi-year deal. The 34-year-old Kendrick, also brings experience and a solid right-handed bat (.291 lifetime), and also some versatility as he’s played outfield and first base as well as second. Kendrick just completed a two-year, $20 million contract and may be looking for something similar again. Neither player is an ideal leadoff hitter, but would still fit the role better than anyone we currently have on the roster.

A cheaper option still would be to bring back Jose Reyes, who still has some speed and showed he can play an adequate second base as well as third. Reyes would love to return to the Mets and could probably be had on a very reasonable one or two year deal. In-house options would be cheaper still. Wilmer Flores is not the greatest second baseman and might be needed to platoon with Dominic Smith at first. T.J. Rivera, once back from Tommy John surgery, showed some pop last year and could also see some time at second. Gavin Cecchini is still a consideration as well. Though seemingly around forever, the shortstop turned second baseman is just 23 and should be able to handle the keystone defensively. His offense is another story though as he hit just .267 in AAA Las Vegas last season followed by .208 in limited big league duty.

Having a middle order of Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes and Bruce is a good start, but we need someone to set the table in front of them if we want to see some real run production. Ideally our new leadoff hitter can also play second or third base.

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18 comments for “With Jay Bruce back, attention turns back to the infield

  1. David Groveman
    January 12, 2018 at 9:25 am

    Getting Bruce, a RF/1B makes Todd Frazier and Mike Moustakas less likely. While the Mets could shift Asdrubal Cabrera to second base is still possible it seems the Mets are determined to find a second baseman.

    Option 1: (Deal Seems Dead)

    Trade for Jason Kipnis

    Option 2:

    Trade for Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutcheon (Trade would include Juan Lagares for salary reasons.)

    Option 3:

    Trade for Starlin Casto (Could include JT Realmuto or Christian Yellich but unlikely)

    Option 4: (Unlikely)

    Trade for Cesar Hernandez

    Option 5:

    Sign Howie Kendrick, Brandon Phillips etc

    Option 6:

    Do nothing

    I have no idea what the Mets will do but I hope it isn’t Option 6

  2. Hunter
    January 12, 2018 at 9:30 am

    Bruce and Castro sound good to me but Castro is expensive. Reyes,Phillips or Kendrick are more likely.

  3. Matt Netter
    January 12, 2018 at 10:44 am

    I didn’t even mention Castro in this post. For the same price, if not less, we could get Kendrick without having to trade anything and I think he’s a superior and more versatile player. Castro can hit but he’s inconsistent, not a good fielder, and a low career OBP guy. Because he’s slotted to play between two kids, I think it’s important to have a strong fielder at the keystone.

    I’ve played around in my head with the Pittsburgh trade scenarios and I don’t like how it plays out. For one, I’m not a big Josh Harrison fan. For two, I don’t think McCutcheon makes sense. He’s not really a center fielder anymore and we already have 3 corner outfielders. I think the outfield is now set and I would not trade Lagares.

    To me, signing Eduardo Nunez completes the infield and the lineup. If I’m being greedy, I’d also like Tony Watson for the bullpen.

    • Name
      January 12, 2018 at 11:20 am

      Castro : .282/.320/.413
      Nunez : .282/.320/.415

      They are carbon copies of each other at the plate. If Castro isn’t leadoff material in your eyes, why is Nunez?

      • Matt Netter
        January 12, 2018 at 11:33 am

        Nunez is trending upward on OBP, is more versatile and steals bases. Castro has two full seasons under his belt of sub .300 OBP and he hasn’t been a base stealer in four years.

        • Name
          January 12, 2018 at 1:07 pm

          My point is about leadoff only. If you think one is a leadoff hitter then you must think the other is as well because they have almost identical stats.
          Last year:
          Nunez: .341 OBP
          Castro: .338 OBP

          If you’re willing to look back 3 years, why not look back at the 4th year when Nunez had a .271 OBP and Castro a .339 OBP.

          Nunez does steal more, but that’s because he hasn’t had a guaranteed contract as a cushion. Castro, like many others *cough* Lagares *cough*, stopped running immediately after he signed his long term extension. He stole 22 bases in 2011, 25 in 2012, and then signed his extension and hasn’t topped more than 9 swipes in a season since.

          • Chris F
            January 12, 2018 at 4:00 pm

            something wrong with those yrs/numbers I believe. His stealing did go down, but so did PAs.

    • David Groveman
      January 12, 2018 at 12:21 pm

      I’d be more eager to get Dickey or Colon on the cheap as rotation insurance than spending on another reliever.

      • ReluctantMetsFan
        January 12, 2018 at 2:06 pm

        I like many of the ideas posted here. Nuñez is an okay idea, but I like Frazier better. He’s not stupendous, but there’s a lot to be said for rapport with the media and clubhouse morale-boosting. His offense and his defense certainly aren’t what they used to be, though. Castro, I think, is too expensive for Fred. I also like the fact that people here aren’t automatically discounting the idea of bringing in “old” players (age 30+). I think having players age 30 to say, 33 is important in any franchise.They tend to be in the “sweet spot” of their career – not green, nervous, and inexperienced, yet also not exhausted, complacent, or constantly hurt (I realize the 2017 Mets were hurt regularly, regardless of age. Lol. I’m just generalizing). However, I am thinking (Sorry, David), that Dickey and Colon may want to hang it up. I mean, Colon is actually older than I am! (There are only 2 current MLB players who are). Sometimes, we need to just realize when it’s time. Sadly, Mr. Coupon won’t open his wallet a bit more.

        Editor’s Note – The Comment Policy that you were asked to read before posting prohibits capitalizing words.

        • ReluctantMetsFan
          January 13, 2018 at 2:50 am

          Editor’s Note – This post deleted and all future posts will go to moderation until the individual can read the comment policy.

  4. Pete In Iowa
    January 12, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    I like Frazier the best of all possibilities. He’s certainly adequate at 3B and can also fill the role as a RH platoon at 1B with Smith and/or Bruce. He can slot in in the 5 or six hole which would move Conforto back to the top of the order, i.e. in the 1 or 2 hole. He was a very good leadoff hitter last year and I would have no problem whatsoever if he hit there in 2018. Since SB no longer have any real importance in “today’s” game, Conforto is just as good as Nunez or Castro at going from first to third or second to home, so pure SB speed doesn’t really matter for a leadoff hitter. Additionally, Conforto certainly wouldn’t be a bad choice in the 2 hole either, as I think Mike Trout is very productive in that spot. Not that Conforto is Trout, but my point is I don’t buy this “losing production” stuff about Conforto hitting at the top of the order.

  5. Metsense
    January 12, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    Todd Frazier had the highest bWAR , at 3.4 ,among the free agent players mentioned it the article. The next closest is Moustakas at 1.8. Frazier has averaged over a 3.0 bWar over the six years that he is a regular. MLBTR estimates a contract of 3/33. The Mets should sign him at that rate.
    Carbrera at .351 OBP was the highest among those listed in the article. Cabrera qualifies if the object is to have men on base for the home run hitters to drive in. Move Cabrera to second base and sign Frazier.

  6. Eraff
    January 12, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    I Object to all further use of the term “Table Setter”. I will revise and extend my remarks at a future date.

    (this includes revocation of Bill Mazeroski’s HOF Status as well)

  7. Mike Walczak
    January 12, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    It feels like putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. First Bruce, then who is next? Walker, Reyes ? Starting to look like last years team. Let’s see what they can do at 2B. Bruce was a surprise, so maybe there is another surprise in store. I am feeling the Nunez vibe.

  8. BK
    January 13, 2018 at 10:29 am

    While Bruce was a good signing, it won’t mean anything if they bring back Reyes to play 2B. The market is moving in the Mets’ favor. Let’s see what Sandy does next.

  9. Chris F
    January 13, 2018 at 11:48 pm

    Indeed it does. Agon a Met. Im not really sure I get it. But one thing is clear, there clearly isnt much confidence in Smith — the best of circumstances this is a hire to make sure Smith has a teacher. Looks like there will be a clearing out of the 40 man.

    • Metsense
      January 14, 2018 at 9:35 am

      The signing of Adrian Gonzales indicates that the Mets were not ready to turn over first base to Dom Smith in 2018. Smith now has to beat out Gonzales for the spot. Initially I thought the Bruce signing was going to be the first base insurance for Smith but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Instead the plan appears to be Cespedes- Conforto- Bruce in the outfield and Lagares to the bench. The Mets don’t see Lagares as a starter. Bruce and Gonzales should make the 2018 Mets better.

  10. Eraff
    January 14, 2018 at 10:02 am

    I assume they will sign a 2bman….Flo and Gonzalez will straight platoon, with Flo taking some “rover” ab’s at other positions.

    Smith cannot be blocked by AG….and an assignment back to AAA won’t hurt him.

    This is all reflective of the fact that they are going to roll out these pitchers and pray for health and performance.

    I give them an A+ for their intellingent approach this off season

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