On Wednesday night, Brandon Nimmo struggled as he ran back to track down a fly ball in center field against the Reds. As he trailed back, his head began to bounce, causing him to lose sight of the ball. He ended up dropping the ball in the outfield, adding to the total errors that the Mets have committed this season. The Mets lead the National League in errors this season with 27 following Nimmo’s gaff in center. The team has clearly taken a priority in offense and are willing to sacrifice defense to be that better offensive team. This past series against the Reds, who pitched at an extremely productive rate, showed why the team can’t afford to run out a strictly offense-first lineup.
It was not as if the idea of having a lineup for offensive success just came about for the Mets. Before the year even started, many knew that the team would struggle with the mitts. One of the biggest liabilities was expected to be Pete Alonso at first. It was expected to be such a problem that it was cause for the Mets to wonder if he deserved the job straight out of spring training. Alonso, while not yet at an elite level defensively, has been able to prove that he is more than capable at handling the bag thanks to his hard work in the offseason. He so far has been the least of the worries for the Mets in the field.
More worries come up the middle for the team, where Amed Rosario has completely floundered at shortstop. He has seven errors so far this season, which tops the National League. While he has kept his average afloat at .275, his defensive incompetence has dragged his WAR down into the negatives. The strategy of starting offensive players that aren’t inclined defensively has hurt the Mets in regards to shortstop, and they don’t have a solution to back Rosario up. While a .275 average is respectable, it makes one wonder if it is worth sacrificing that kind of defensive incompetence for something that isn’t higher.
Unlike the shortstop positions, the Mets do have more options in the outfield. This is where they find themselves in a logjam. On the night that Nimmo made the error in center, he was flanked by Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto in left field and right field. McNeil is naturally an infielder, so he is automatically a liability in the corners. Conforto is more comfortable in the outfield, so he usually holds the corner down well. What will happen when Yoenis Cespedes returns to the lineup however? Coming off of surgery, he is not likely to be thrown straight into center field, if he returns there ever again. McNeil is likely to get bumped from the outfield, but there will be riots in Queens if he is pulled from the lineup. Where does he get put though?
The entire Met infield is essentially locked down for the rest of the season, with Alonso, Rosario, Todd Frazier and Robinson Cano all solidly locked into their spots. It is going to be sticky when Cespedes returns, but there is no way that McNeil can be removed from the lineup. Frazier should be the one to take a seat, and McNeil will bring some ability to the infield. Cespedes, although he has a Gold Glove to his name, has recently proved to be a liability in the outfield, so there will be no sense of relief when he comes back. The Mets, it seems, will be perpetually stuck in a situation where they find themselves starting three corner outfielders. While the bats might be electric this season, the defense is what might end up costing the team.