Josh Harrison fits like a glove

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?

21 comments for “Josh Harrison fits like a glove

  1. David Groveman
    January 19, 2018 at 9:12 am

    Josh Harrison does fit nicely into the #1 or #2 spot in the lineup and into the defensive needs of the team. I’d be very annoyed with Alderson if Brandon Nimmo was the sticking point on this deal getting made. The Mets can sign a quality left-handed 5th outfielder. Heck, Ichiro could do the job.

    I get that Nimmo still has some ceiling room but the Mets need to extend their lineup and getting a player like Harrison is a bigger help than a player like Todd Frazier (given the lack of leadoff and #2 hitter candidates).

  2. TexasGusCC
    January 19, 2018 at 9:33 am

    Alderson may be trying to get Pittsburgh to take two relief prospects, LOL. It seems with other teams being involved, that it’s hard to expect the Bucs to not get their preference. Also, by hearing the name Brandon Philips – whom I don’t like much – I get the impression he’s seen as a possible cheap fit to the lineup issues detailed above. Not an easy answer for a team that only has four MLB outfielders healthy right now.

  3. MattyMets
    January 19, 2018 at 9:51 am

    For the sake of conversation, I’ll throw out another idea. Sign Reyes or Phillips as a one year stop gap. Next year bring back Murphy…

  4. BK
    January 19, 2018 at 10:06 am

    I have trouble accepting that Nimmo is the sticking point here. There has to be something else. Unless Sandy sees something in him that the rest of us do not.

    • Matt Netter
      January 19, 2018 at 11:02 am

      As usual, I think this is about money. Yes, Harrison’s salary is reasonable but it’s still significantly more than we’d need to pay Nunez, Phillips or Reyes, plus, if we trade Nimmo, we’d need more money for a replacement 5th outfielder, which as Maggie Wiggin pointed out correctly on MetsBlog yesterday, is actually a very important roster spot. Reason being is that with Conforto coming back slowly plus the injury histories of Lagares and Cespedes, it’s really more like a 4th OF role. Plus the Mets do not have any OF depth at all at the high levels. As currently constituted, if the Mets have two OFs on the DL at the same time, a pretty distinct possibility really, we’re in trouble.

      Imagine we start the season with Conforto on the DL and Cespedes pulls a hammy in April. Suddenly we have an OF of Nimmo, Lagares and Bruce and the backups are Travis Taijeron and whoever we can pick up off the unemployment line. This worries me and I really hope this is addressed before ST.

      • Herb G
        January 20, 2018 at 9:54 pm

        Matt- I hope you are wrong, but you may be right that money, and not Nimmo, is the sticking point. If so, Alderson better get over it. Harrison is the best fit. Frazier would be fine, but we already have enough HR power in the lineup, and he would leave us without a leadoff hitter. Nunez glove is a real drawback. Virtually all of the points in your article are spot on.

        As for the Nimmo replacement, I prefer Ben Revere to Jarrod Dyson. Three years younger, a better hitter, better fielder and, I believe, cheaper to sign.

        Now, I hate to break it to you, but Travis Taijeron was a minor league free agent, and he has signed with the Dodgers. IMO, our 2018 version of Taijeron is Jayce Boyd. He can play OF and 1B credibly, and except for a glitch in 2016, he has shown he can hit. So he might be OF #5 until Conforto returns.

        I am totally with you about resigning Jose for bench depth, and I am pretty sure it will happen.

        • MattyMets
          January 20, 2018 at 11:40 pm

          I didn’t realize Taijeron was gone. Not a big loss, but clearly this organization is short on OF depth.

  5. John Fox
    January 19, 2018 at 11:09 am

    “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?” Yes ! Matt Reynolds!

  6. TJ
    January 19, 2018 at 11:34 am

    We know it is always about money, especially with the Mets, but I think Alderson may be correct when he says that Josh Harrison would likely not get 3/$32 million on the market right now. If true, despite his shiny 3.3 bwar last year, then his price may not be as high as Nimmo. Combine that with the lack of depth in the system for MLB ready OF, and I don’t blame him for trying to get Harrison for Ceech and a so so arm.

    Even though Nimmo is buried as the #5 when Conforto returns, with the Met injury history, I think I’d rather have him and Reyes at a Kendrick price, and make that “significant” acquisition elsewhere, like Frazier or a pitcher.

    I understand that Murph had a significant knee surgery this offseason, for what that is worth. Cabby may have more range than him this season.

  7. Eraff
    January 19, 2018 at 11:35 am

    I like Harrison…he’s a very complete ballplayer who would fill lots of spots going forward. A superior Widget versus Flo or Cabs

    • Chris F
      January 19, 2018 at 1:14 pm

      +1. But Im not expecting a trade based on Alderson’s words.

  8. Name
    January 19, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    I don’t agree with most of the points here. He’s a Util guy in my eyes. At $10.5 million, that makes him far too expensive.

    He’s started 96, 122, 122 games the last years.
    His UZR metrics are solid at 3rd, passable at 2nd, but not so good in the OF.
    Last year he was terrible offensively. For most of the career he’s close to a league-average hitter.

    If i’m spending $10.5 million on a player i’d rather go out and get a starting caliber player. I’d value Harrison at $6 mil. No way i would take on the full contract plus give up players. I’d rather have Kendrick who signed for 2/7 but it seems he’s given up the INF.

  9. Matt Netter
    January 19, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    Name, Harrison’s numbers are solid, if not spectacular, but he is versatile, and, by all measures, a good defensive second baseman. Such a player cannot be had for $5 million in 2018. These days $5 mm gets you an aging player trying to hang on for one more year or a journeyman reliever. Maybe 10 years ago it could get you a prime aged player who’s made two All Star appearances, but certainly not now.

    • Name
      January 19, 2018 at 4:25 pm

      Using BRs similarity scores, it lists Nunez, Alberto Callaspo, and Chris Johnson as top comps for this era. Not exactly glowing.

      Johnson’s top salary topped out at 6 mil, Callaspo’s highest amount was 4.875. We’ll see what Nunez gets but i doubt he’ll top 7.5 annually. You’re valuing him like a Zobrist or Prado, two high end utility starting players. The most games Harrison has started in a season is 122.

      $10.5 million is too much. And it’ll end up be $11.5 million if the Mets don’t pick up the option and buy him out. I wouldn’t take him even if they were giving him away free.

      • TJ
        January 19, 2018 at 4:58 pm

        Name,
        I agree on your valuation and that he comes with risk (mostly OBP), but I would take him at a low cost in return player or players. He did put a a bWar of 3.3 last year, and there is a pretty good chance he could put up a 2+ thins year, which would give value relative to his pay. Additionally, his skills line up well because the Mets need what he does.

        And, the team can limit the commitment to one year if his performance dips.

  10. Mike Walczak
    January 19, 2018 at 5:34 pm

    I believe that Alderson is waiting to pull the trigger because he has other potential options that he wants to explore first. Nunez, Walker and Frazier come to mind.

    The question then becomes, are the Mets better or worse after adding player A?

    No doubt, a weak point is the top of the lineup.

    Let’s see what Sandy can do.

  11. Remember1969
    January 20, 2018 at 12:21 pm

    While I agree with the notion that Harrison fits the 2B slot as well as anyone on the market or known publicly as available via trade, I think I have changed my tune on trading for him. A few points:

    (1) The expense of getting him: For his salary this year $10.5M + players, they could get both Frazier and Reyes for the same dollars without having to give up anything except drop a couple more 40 man roster slots. I like Fraziers defense, power, and OBP at third better than Harrison’s at 2nd. I like Reyes/Cabrerra as a 2nd base/super utility tandem.

    (2) While Reyes certainly had a horrible start last year, his second half shows he had something left. If you are going to sign a washed up one dimensional player like Gonzalez for first base on a minimal contract “no risk signing”, certainly signing Reyes who can do much more with speed, energy, and leadership (remember the rapport he has developed with Rosario) for the same “no risk” low cost signing makes sense. So last year, he played 145 games with 500 at bats, 15 homers, 58 RBI, 75 Runs Scored, 24 Stolen bases, along with 7 triples. Harrison’s line: 128 games, 486 at bats, 16 HR, 47 RBI, 66 Runs Scored, 12 stolen bases, 2 triples. And lets talk strikeouts and walks . . Reyes: 79 Ks and 50 BB, Harrison 90 Ks and 28 BB. Reyes outplayed him in everything but BA (.246 to .272) . . oh yea, maybe a little defense . but for the money ? Why does everyone think other team’s players are better than ours?

    (3) I gotta believe that Luis Guillorme is the 2nd baseman of the future – by 2019 at the latest and I am not convinced that he is not the best option out of spring training this year. I think they should not be clogging up 2B for the next 3 years when they have what looks like the best defender in the system getting close to ready.

    (4) Along with other commenters here, I am a bit worried about the injury risk (last three years 114, 131, and 128 games, respectively) and his regression at the plate. 2014 was by far his best year – an outlier really. 2017 was decent, but whose batting average has gone down for the last three years and his home run total last year was by far his best.

    Let’s go get a pair of gloves – Frazier and Reyes!

    • TexasGusCC
      January 20, 2018 at 4:18 pm

      Very good points in comparing Harrison to Reyes. So, what do you think the holdup is in signing Reyes?

      • Remember1969
        January 20, 2018 at 6:06 pm

        I donno .. just playing with the fans? They are in a public relations box here – what was the word Alderson has used in the past – the ‘visual’. I believe they want Reyes to be the last piece, not one that makes them look like he is the last one.

  12. Chris F
    January 20, 2018 at 6:41 pm

    Blame injuries all you want for last year, and for sure it was a big deal, but dont let that cloud the reality this was a .500 team at best anyway. Bring back the same team? Reyes is bad. I dont bring him back for 100 grand and a parking spot with fans. The same team doesnt move the needle unless one believes the hysteria that the team has 5 aces, when in fact that could not be further from the truth. So I think you trot out the same team, same cliques, same clubhouse, same everything and what do you have? A FO that believes all the problems were basically outside the lines and injuries. I see team with nowhere near enough talent to be taken seriously for any part of the post season. How did the defense improve? Yes, I read that TdA is *concentrating* on defense, but that means zero. Anyway, I just see the same ol same ol. Wasnt good enough in the past, wont be good enough this year. Why is Sandy so stuck in a rut with personnel? Reyes?? Ugh.

  13. Chris B
    January 20, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    I’m sorry but I’m not giving up Brandon Nimmo, a high OBP, young OF’er with some speed for an injury prone 2B who profiles slightly above average and comes with that contract.

    Especially considering that Nimmo is actually the 4th OF’er for the Mets with inevitable injuries, etc.

    Sandy has a history of standing his ground re: asset management. Unfortunately this will involve a balance of prospects and how much money the Bucs are willing to kick in but I think the deal will get done.

    LGM.

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