Well, Adrian Gonzalez has made it to June and he’s still in the majors, starting more often than not. Unfortunately, that says more about the Mets than it does about Gonzalez. We have the team’s preference for veterans, combined with potential first base replacements on the DL and their Triple-A first baseman floundering while performing in a hitter’s league. Right now on June 6, one could easily argue – who would play there instead of him?
Last night Gonzalez came up in a key situation in the fifth inning. The Mets trailed by two runs but he came up with no outs and two runners in scoring position. He popped out to left and didn’t get a run home. Hey, it happens. The problem is that it’s happening way too often for the Mets in general and Gonzalez in particular. While earlier in the year, Gonzalez came up with some timely hits, that hasn’t been the case here lately. He also batted with a runner in scoring position in the seventh inning but struck out to end the frame.
Through games of May 8, Gonzalez had a 0.31 WPA, which was one of the best marks on the club at the time. Now his WPA sits at (-0.56), meaning his offensive production has cost the team nearly a win over the past month. It’s important to remember that WPA has virtually no predictive ability. Just because Gonzalez has been bad the past month doesn’t mean he’s going to be that way going forward. It just illustrates how he hasn’t been getting it done at all here recently.
First base is an offensive position and Gonzalez’ lack of hitting really sticks out when we compare him to his positional peers. There are 17 players in the National League with at least 150 PA who have played at first base. Gonzalez ranks 13th in both wOBA (.301) and wRC+ (92) and 15th with a .699 OPS. Overall, he has a 0.0 fWAR. He’s played 50 games and put up replacement-level stats.
Perhaps when Yoenis Cespedes returns from the DL, the Mets can move Jay Bruce to first base and move Gonzalez to the bench. It’s not like Bruce has been wowing us with his 0.1 fWAR but at least he can point to his plantar fasciitis as an excuse for his poor play. Maybe a move to a less demanding defensive position will help wake up Bruce’s bat.
The Mets hoped to catch lightning in a bottle with Gonzalez and at minimum wage, many fans thought it was a gamble worth taking. There have been some highlights along the way, like his two-homer game against the Reds and his grand slam against the Nationals. But it’s hard to argue that he’s pushed the team forward.
Right now, the Mets should be scheming ways to get him out of the starting lineup, hopefully with a better replacement than Kevin Plawecki. Hopefully they are having internal discussions about promoting Peter Alonso, who if nothing else would give them a righty bat to use at the position. Alonso has cooled off from his earlier pace, in part because he wasn’t going to maintain that all year and part because there’s not a ton of offensive threats in the Binghamton lineup. In his last eight games, he’s batting .211 but has drawn nine walks as opposing pitchers are seemingly choosing to let anyone else beat them.
The good news for Gonzalez is that even if the Mets do decide to jump through hoops to replace him in the starting lineup that he’s performed well this year as a pinch-hitter, so they have a reason to keep him around. He’s reached base five times in seven trips to the plate as a PH, with a walk and four hits.
You can never really tell these things from afar but Gonzalez seems like a good guy. There have been no reports of him rocking the boat and his video tribute on Memorial Day was easily the best one given by any member of the team. If asked to guess, my assumption would be that he would handle a move to pinch-hitter and defensive replacement with dignity. Now it’s up to the Mets to make it happen and test that hypothesis.