Keon Broxton and his place on the 2019 Mets

The Mets made a fair number of moves in this past offseason and we spent a fair amount of time discussing them. And now with Grapefruit League play underway, we get to see these guys in a Mets uniform for the first time. After watching about two-thirds of Saturday’s game against the Braves, this morning’s news checkup included a look at the box score to see what was missed. Surprisingly, what stood out the most to me was who wasn’t in the game yesterday at all – Keon Broxton.

Now, nothing is less important than an appearance in the first Spring Training game. As a veteran Met, Juan Lagares deserved the start in center and Jeff McNeil needs all of the outfield reps he can get. No doubt the home fans were thrilled to get a look at Tim Tebow, too. Still, Broxton sitting the whole game stood out to me for some reason.

Broxton has spent parts of four seasons in the majors, including 143 games in 2017. When the Mets got him, most people nodded their heads in agreement, thinking he was someone who was good to have around. Yet there was also agreement that no one wanted to see him play a major role on the 2019 squad.

Ask someone who follows baseball but wasn’t especially invested in Broxton and you get some variant of this – he’s got some power, he can run and he can play defense. Sounds like a pretty good tool kit. So, why don’t we want to see more of him?

It’s really tough to be a quality MLB player when you have a 36.6 K%, which is Broxton’s lifetime mark in the majors. Checking the leaderboards for 2018, it’s almost exactly what Chris Davis (36.8) did last year and he was easily the worst player in baseball, with a (-3.1) fWAR. Joey Gallo was also in the same K% neighborhood – 35.9 – but he was able to put up a 2.8 fWAR, thanks to 40 HR. Broxton does have a 20-HR season on his resume but hasn’t hit 40 in his MLB career to date.

To survive that kind of strikeout rate you either need awesome power, like Gallo, or be extremely fortunate with BABIP. And Broxton had that luck in a half season in 2016, when he posted a .373 mark in 244 PA. That propelled him towards a 1.7 fWAR and a shot at a full-time job, which he had in 2017. As expected, the BABIP took a hit, falling to a still-elevated .323 mark. Still, his wOBA fell from .343 to .308 and his wRC+ tumbled from 111 to 85. And instead of a rebound in 2018, Broxton suffered even worse rates, with wOBA and wRC+ marks of .299 and 84, respectively.

The Mets already have the player who needs a big BABIP season to be useful in Lagares so do they need another one? Are we right in gifting a spot on the Opening Day roster to Broxton? Perhaps we should be more interested in the health and results of players like Gregor Blanco and Rajai Davis. Except those guys are considerably older and haven’t really been productive in the majors recently.

It makes the decision not to go after someone like a Derek Dietrich, who joined the Reds on an NRI, a bit confusing. Now, Dietrich cannot play center field and is likely better in the infield than in an outfield corner. But he can hit at a respectable rate and his lifetime away numbers (.816 OPS) were considerably better than his home numbers (.696) in Miami.

The pro-Broxton argument is that you want someone who can play center because of the injury history of Lagares. But if you’re really committed to playing McNeil in the outfield, then Lagares becomes your fourth outfielder, the defensive replacement. Do you really want to carry two outfield defensive replacements on your 25-man roster? And if Lagares does get hurt, you’ve got Blanco and Davis to call up from the minors to fill the role.

The Mets sent three minor leaguers to the Brewers for Broxton on January 5 and at the time of the trade it looked like a decent move. Would they have made that move if they knew that 11 days later they were going to sign Jed Lowrie? Maybe they would and maybe they even did. It’s not hard to imagine the Mets and Lowrie’s representatives were engaged in contract talks before January 5. However, it’s not the move that I would have made.

It seems that so much of the roster, especially the bench players, have been acquired with the idea of – What if someone gets hurt? This was a refreshing change to what we’ve seen in the past. But here with Broxton, it seems the better question might have been – What if our guys stay healthy? It’s one thing to plan on injuries to your starters. It’s another to carry a guy because of injury concerns to your fourth outfielder.

Are more games going to be won with a fifth outfielder who can hit or one who can play defense? While waiting for Lagares’ annual injury, how many PA is Broxton going to get that could have gone to a better hitter? When the real games start, it might not make any difference at all. But when a key PH appearance comes in a game and we see Broxton go down on strikes, he’s fanned 13 times in 32 lifetime ABs in this role, we might sing a different tune.

11 comments for “Keon Broxton and his place on the 2019 Mets

  1. February 24, 2019 at 11:24 am

    Broxton has a 15.5% walk rate vs lefties I could see him and Lagares in there vs lefties though I’d hate to see Nimmo sit vs lefties.

  2. Eric Bloom
    February 24, 2019 at 11:29 am

    Leading off today.

  3. Metsense
    February 24, 2019 at 2:25 pm

    Oh Brian, you are so right. The Mets only need one defensive replacement centerfielder. Lagares is the best defender of the two and has the $9m contract. Broxton (who I think is out of options) has more power which is a plus for a bench player, more stolen bases to use as a pinch runner, and has a plus glove in center. He will earn the ML minimum this year and then three more years of arbitration. If he has an option left then send he off so Syracuse. If not then swallow Lagares’ salary has trade him for something. Basically the Mets would be paying the same $9m but would have a cheaper, younger, less injury prone bench defensive centerfielder for the next four years.
    Dietrich would be a good left handed bat for the bench. Another good idea, you are batting 1.000 in this early spring. (but a small sample size, LOL)

  4. TJ
    February 24, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    Broxton is one of several interesting acquisitions by BVW this winter. To a degree he seems redundant, as does Lowrie. But, I like the flip side. In recent years, the Mets have been doomed by more more than just injuries. They have been doomed by lack of depth, both with pitchers and positions players. And, they have been doomed by a lack of athleticism. Broxton helps address both of those glaring need. Now, the hole in his bat is an issue, but if he didn’t have that hole he’d be unavailable and a star. He is not completely redundant with Lagares given his BB rate vs LHP and his elite base stealing skills. When was the last time the Mets pinch hit a guy late that could create a run on the bases without an extra base hit, and then enter the game to provide gold glove defense? In a fairly limited role he can help the team win in more ways than one. And, if Chili can help with that K rate, he could be even more valuable.

  5. February 24, 2019 at 3:49 pm

    Steve Gelbs just interviewed Broxton and we found out he has 16 dogs.

  6. Remember1969
    February 24, 2019 at 7:45 pm

    My suspicion is that Lagares will not open the season with the Mets. My initial thought on Broxton was “Lagares replacement”. I was fairly convinced they already had a deal in place (San Fran was my choice with their need for outfielders). Broxton will provide a seamless replacement when Lagares is gone at the end of the year at the latest. I would be surprised if it lasts that long.

  7. Name
    February 24, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    Broxton story could becoming a rare “offseason trade then quick dump” scenario.

    The last Met to have this honor was Alex Torres, who was traded for on March 30th and then DFAed on August 4th.

  8. NYM6986
    February 25, 2019 at 8:05 am

    Would like to see a 5 man bench and hope the pen additions can make that possible. If we can be relatively healthy, and that’s a big if, then AAA Syracuse will field a pretty good team that with perhaps a change of scenery will help some of our new additions improve their performance. I also like the new fundamentals they are trying in SP and hope it makes a difference. Could you imagine a Mets team that actually runs? Broxton’s K rate makes him a defensive replacement not a starter, even if Legares goes down as many believe he will. Remember that some of his injuries, hand and toe, were the result of his aggressiveness and not the hamstring or lat muscles that were pulled due to inadequate training regimes. Hopefully he returns to the form when he sighed his big contract. Time will tell. #LGM

  9. TexasGusCC
    February 25, 2019 at 9:51 am

    If, if, Lagares can stay healthy, he is worth his contract and more. He only needs to hit .260 and with his speed that shouldn’t be a problem. The big problem is his health. Broxton is a Jr. version of Lagares in every way. Lagares is the premier defensive centerfielder in baseball and when he’s healthy that isn’t even a discussion. Too, add his speed and better contact ability than Broxton, Lagares is the better option.

  10. February 25, 2019 at 10:41 am

    I don’t see how Lagares and Broxton project on the same Roster— they are both Presently 5th outfielders, judged by their results. They are somewhat repetitive for their Defensive value–however, Keon strikes out almost 30% of AB’s and Walks in about 10%…..Juan almost never walks.

    Admittedly, they’re both massively talented—they could each capture their youthful promise.

    I too am curious that so many teams waited out Deitrich

  11. MattyMets
    February 25, 2019 at 11:23 am

    I have the same feeling about JD Davis. Until the inevitable injury occurs it’s hard to see where their playing time will come. Nice to have young guys ready to step in where last year we relied on AGon, Reyes and Bautista.

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