It’s funny how one roster move begets another. What may not have made sense a few moves prior, suddenly seems like a no-brainer. The resigning of Jay Bruce plugged a lot of holes for the Mets. In one move they provide lineup protection for Yoenis Cespedes, solidify the outfield, give themselves insurance at first base and provide some clubhouse leadership. No, Bruce is probably not a 2018 MVP front runner, but he was the right man for the job. Similarly, as the Mets consider how they might round out their infield, there’s one player available in trade who checks all the right boxes – the Pirates’ Josh Harrison.
The 30-year-old right hander is coming off an All-Star season in which he slashed .272/.339/.432 with 16 home runs and 12 steals. Again, not MVP stuff, but better than replacement level with a 2.5 WAR. And those numbers all would have been higher had Harrison’s season not been cut short by a now healed broken hand. Now factor in his defense, versatility, and team friendly contract ($10.5 million for 2018 with reasonable team options for 2019 and 2020) and you have a pretty good fit. Plus, word on the street is that the payroll cutting Pirates are interested in Brandon Nimmo. No offense to Nimmo who’s a nice kid who can get on base, but his ceiling is that of a replacement level fourth outfielder. If we could get a two-time All Star second baseman for him, that’s an easy call.
Harrison is an above average defensive second baseman (career .985 fielding percentage) who’s seen time at third base and corner outfield as well. Earlier in his career, he also played some shortstop. Harrison has made his share of errors at third, but looks smooth at the keystone where he was second among National League second baseman in range factor the past two seasons. Over the past two seasons, he’s also been among the top five in fielding percentage, assists, putouts, and double plays turned. Harrison has been described as a high motor player who makes a lot of highlight plays in the field and often aggressively takes an extra bag on the base paths.
While there are certainly other infield options out there, you could make the argument that none fit the bill as well as Harrison. Third baseman Mike Moustakas will likely be too expensive, not to mention risky coming off an outlying career year. Todd Frazier would be a nice addition but he’d push Asdrubal Cabrera over to second base and still leave a sizable hole atop the lineup as he is better suited to bat fifth or sixth than first or second. Potential trade candidates Jason Kipnis and Cesar Hernandez seem to either be off the market or else out of our reach. Former Mets Neil Walker (back issues) and Jose Reyes (better suited to a utility role) are less than ideal fits. Eduardo Nunez, an available free agent, provides similar versatility, better speed and wouldn’t require us to surrender and then replace Nimmo, however his defense is not nearly as good.
While he’s no Rickey Henderson, with a career OBP of .321 and an average of 16 steals per season, Harrison is better suited to bat leadoff than any other Met currently on the roster. And frankly, other than Lorenzo Cain, for whom there is neither the budget nor obvious open position, is there a better available option? The only downside to the potential Harrison deal is that it would require a follow-up move to replace Nimmo with a center fielder who could platoon with Juan Lagares until Michael Conforto is ready. We’d need an affordable lefty depth outfielder, ideally one with speed. As luck would have it, there’s such a player available that checks every box – Jarrod Dyson.
Would that then complete the lineup and bench? Not quite. With T.J. Rivera expected to begin the season on the disabled list and Wilmer Flores expected to get most of his at bats platooning at first base, the Mets could still use another versatile backup infielder. Preferably one who comes cheap, can play shortstop if needed, has some speed, and really wants to play for the Mets. Sound like anyone we know?