The Mets have several areas where they need improvement going into 2019, especially the bullpen, but also the catching corps, and first base is iffy as well. One area of need that has not gotten much attention is utility infielder. They need a player good enough with the glove to backup Amed Rosario at shortstop, as well as to fill in at second and third bases as needed. This is the role free agent Jose Reyes played for the team in 2018, although not very well. How should the Mets proceed for the coming season?
Technically, Reyes could replace himself and assume the role he played last year, but that is highly unlikely. He was bad in the field and worse at the plate last year, and he will be a year older in 2019. Undoubtedly he would come cheaply, but most fans would agree time has passed by this once great Mets infielder.
There is some buzz about a reunion with free agent Asdrubal Cabrera, who was dealt to the Phils last year during the pennant race. The switch-hitter can play anywhere in the infield, but his defense is sub-par at all those spots, especially shortstop. He had a decent overall season at the plate, (.262/.316/.458,) but there is a big red flag about that production. For the second half of the season he slashed only .228/.283/.401, and if he hits like that second half offense again in 2019 he would not be much help to the Mets.
There is one name on the list of free agent shortstops/utility infielders who could be a good fit for the backup infield spot, and that would be Adeiny Hechavarria. Hechavarria played for three clubs in 2018, totaling 94 games. His last team was the Yankees, who obtained him when Didi Gregorius got injured.
Hechavarria has mostly played shortstop in the majors, but he has seen time at second and third base as well. He will be 30 years old next season, so he is a few years younger than both Reyes and Cabrera. With the bat, Hechavarria put up a slash line of .247/.279/.345. Not good certainly, but a lot better than what the Mets got from Reyes last year.
Hechavarria does bring respectable defense to the table. FanGraphs had his UZR rating at 1.7 playing shortstop, a distinct improvement over the negative figures posted by Reyes and Cabrera.
The Mets already have a bat-first utility infielder in Wilmer Flores, but not many fans would want to see him playing short or even third. Hechavarria is the kind of player who is affordable, and who could provide acceptable defense as a fill-in at short second or third, and who will provide more offense than the kind of black hole level stats that Reyes produced last year.
The Mets have had some effective utility players in the past, think Al Weis and Joe McEwing, among others. It would be nice if Hechavarria or another acquisition could provide similar defense and occasional pop in 2019.