One area of concern for the Mets this offseason is the center field position. Juan Lagares’ contract has expired, and he is not expected back with the Mets for 2020. Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto are fine corner outfielders but are below average fielders in center. The answer to this problem just might be found on the roster of our division rival to the south, in Atlanta.

Ender Inciarte is the incumbent in center for the Braves, and he has had a fine career including Gold Gloves from 2016-2018. However his production fell off significantly in 2019. It was an injury-plagued season for Inciarte, including hamstring woes that ended his season. His slash line in just 65 games was only .246/.343/.397 for the season.

Why should the Mets be interested in Inciarte? As noted, he is a premier defender in CF with excellent speed and a good bat, when healthy. In his last full season, 2018, he posted a 7.2 UZR, a refreshing change from the negative numbers put up by the Mets’ center fielders in 2018. As to his speed, he did steal 28 bases in 2018, and the Mets could sure use some speed on the base paths.

He will be 29, a prime age for MLB players, in 2020. He was nearly activated at the end of the season but the Braves decided to be cautious and kept him on the Injured List. Plenty of players have had hamstring issues at times and bounced back well, including our own Jeff McNeil last year. The injury plagued 2019 seems like an aberration, In 2017 he played in 157 games, followed by 156 games in 2018.

Perhaps the most compelling reason the Mets would be interested in Inciarte is the way he performed in August, when his line was .295/.436/.455, accompanied by four doubles in 44 AB. Then, after fourteen games in the month, the injury struck.

That August line happened at the end of the season for him, and that could well be indicative of the kind of offense he can provide when healthy. If so he would be the most productive CF in recent years for the Mets. He has a team-friendly contract that runs through 2021.

Why would the Braves be willing to trade Inciarte? They did do just fine without him for part of the year in 2019 and they won the division. They played young star Ronald Acuna Jr. in center, although his natural position is RF. But the main reason the Braves might part with Inciarte is the fact that they have a potential star CF who is expected to make the team in 2020, Cristian Pache.

The Braves have a stacked pipeline of prospects, and Pache is at the top of the list. Last year, his age 20 season, was split between AA and AAA ball in the Braves system. He produced a .277/.340/.462 line, with extraordinary defense. He could be a fixture in center for Atlanta for years to come.

Oh, and Pache is not the only center fielder knocking on the Braves door. Switch hitting center fielder Drew Waters played well in AAA in the Braves system last year, and he too could be ready for MLB in 2020. He is ranked in the top 100 of all prospects in the minors by most of the ranking sites, he also is an excellent fielder with speed and power potential.

Waters turns 21 in December, and he played in both AA and AAA ball in the Braves system last year. His combined line for 2019 was .309/.360/.459 with 16 steals in 134 games

Speedster Billy Hamilton came over to the Braves in August and did get some time playing time down the stretch. He had a pretty good run with the Braves, with elite defense and base running, and even his hitting was better than it had been. The Braves declined his hefty option so he is a free agent, but the chatter among Braves fans is he could be signed by Atlanta at a lower price as a fill-in backup at center.

If the Mets are going to try to acquire Inciarte, they are going to have to come with an enticing player or players to offer Atlanta. The Braves needs include another good starting pitcher, in fact they may well bid for Zack Wheeler, a Georgia native who has shown great stuff for the Mets but is now a free agent.

At any rate, center field is an unsettled position for the Mets, and if a deal could be worked out with the Braves, he just might settle into center field for the Mets for some years to come.

1. The Mets have a deficiency at the CF position.
2. The Braves have an accomplished CF who was impacted by injuries last year.
3. The Braves could consider trading Inciarte since they have two premier players at the position in their pipeline that are MLB ready.

10 comments on “Ender Inciarte would be an upgrade in center for the Mets

  • Pete from NJ

    I certainly love the man’s glove in CF plus his bat is a an extra so you’re so right about a perfect player for the Mets. Unfortunately my question, who in the world would the Mets give up for such an asset? Secondly the age old axiom about trading within one’s own division throws in another loop.

    Additionally your scouting report about Atlanta’s AAA player just makes my head spin with envy.

    • John Fox

      Thanks for your kind words. As to who the Mets could give up, Atlanta could use an SP but we don’t have one to spare. If a deal could be worked out it could conceivably involve Andres Gimenez plus another player to get Inciarte.

      • Herb G

        Even before reading your reply, I was thinking Gimenez, plus either Junior Santos or Tony Gibrell. Do you think that would do it? I have always been impressed with Inciarte, back to his days with the D-Backs in his rookie year. I think his best days are still ahead of him.

  • TJ

    Good player, brings a lot of skills Mets could you; hard to see Mets and Braves dealing.

  • Mike Walczak

    Inciarte has a $ 7 million salary in 20, $ 8 million in 21 and $ 9 million in 22. His stolen bases were down in 2019.

    I dont think the Braves would trade him. Even with Pache, in win now, Inciarte would be a great role player. But, one never knows. If we could get him for a dime, I would trade him, but I wouldnt give up very much for him.

    I think we go big or go home. Who knows what the Wheelin Dealin trade machine, BVW will do. Maybe they can pry Betts away from Boston.

    Syndergaard, Diaz and Cespedes for Betts. We sign Strasburg and move forward.

    • Herb G

      Let me know when you have awakened. Your proposal for Betts was tongue in cheek, right? The Red Sox are looking to shed payroll and you are suggesting they take on almost $20 million more?

      A reasonable package for Betts might be Lowrie, Dom Smith, Andres Gimenez (and perhaps a mid-level pitching prospect like Junior Santos and Tony Gibrell) Betts would then cost us $15.6 million in 2020. Granted, Inciarte is no Betts, but his $7.7 million would allow the Mets to pursue the players to fill their other needs this off season, like a #5 starter, a reliever and a banch addition.

  • José

    “Syndergaard, Diaz and Cespedes for Betts. We sign Strasburg and move forward.”

    Despite my generally sarcastic nature, my goal here is really not to be flippant, but these are baseball players we are trading here, not baseball cards.

    • Mike Walczak

      We have to remember that Brodie deals in baseball cards. Ha

  • Rae

    The Mets have no viable trade options that would interest the Braves with the exceptions being Giminez, Vientos, Humphreys, Taylor and my favorite lefty starting pitcher, Thomas Szapucki. The Braves would want a top tier player for Inciarte which will cost the Mets way too much from a farm system the Brodi Van Knucklehead has decimated. Keep Giminez and get someone who knows how to teach, and coach help him to learn the CF position during the 2020 minor league season. Sign Puig and Billy Hamilton. Hamilton plays 25% of games in CF, Puig plays 25% of games in CF, Nimmo plays 25% of games at CF, and last but not least Conforto plays 25% of games at Center. This might work at 2 righties and 2 lefties are both in the CF mixture. If Puig can handle CF on a 50 % bases that would also be great. BVK realizes that Conforto only has 2 years left with the Mets as he is a Boras client which means he will never be re-signed with the Mets. If the team is not in or anywhere near the playoff race by the trade deadline they need to unload Conforto so they can at least get someone potentially good to replace in a trade. Conforto is worth much more with two years of control remaining where as 1 year of control will not garner the Mets any potentially good prospects.

  • MattyMets

    Would be more bullish on him if he didn’t bat left-handed.

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