In the beginning of November, the Mets declined their $9.5 million option on Juan Lagares, making him a free agent and likely ending his career with the club. If you type “Lagares” into the search box at our site – at least before the publication of this piece – you’ll get 875 search results. We’ve written about him a lot. So it seems he should get a proper farewell.

When the Mets traded Carlos Beltran, we did something we hadn’t done before or since. Each contributor at the site was given the chance to weigh in on Beltran and say what he meant to them or what they thought his career was like. It seemed a fitting tribute to a player of his stature. So, what’s the proper sendoff for Lagares then?

First, we have to determine his stature. Yesterday it was pointed out in the comments section that one of the reasons for the Mets’ improved offense in 2019 is that they didn’t give as many PA to guys who couldn’t hit as they did in 2018. The guy with the most PA on the ’19 club who didn’t crack a .700 OPS was Lagares, who came to the plate 285 times and put up a .605 OPS. Only two other guys had 100 or more PA and a sub-.700 OPS – Adeiny Hechavarria (151/.611) and Tomas Nido (144/.547). Compare that to 2018, when eight guys got at least 100 PA with an OPS in the 600s or below.

Of course, defense was always his calling card and he won a deserved Gold Glove Award back in 2014. That season he put up a 2.9 fWAR in 116 games. After that performance, the Mets gave him a four-year extension, something they’ve only done with Jacob deGrom among guys called up in the current decade. And it took a CY Award and hiring deGrom’s former agent to get that particular extension worked out.

Lagares was a very good defensive player for a number of years. He’s posted an 82 DRS in his career, meaning he’s provided eight wins with his play in the field. That’s outstanding. UZR was not quite as bullish, as he had fewer than half the total in that system, with a 37.3 lifetime mark. But both of the leading defensive systems agreed he was not good defensively last year. DRS gave him a (-2) and UZR had him with a (-2.9) in 703.2 innings.

Perhaps injuries robbed Lagares of the career he could have had. Only once in his career did he top 1,000 innings and that was back in 2015 when he had 1003.2 in the year the Mets advanced to the World Series. Lagares was healthy that season and was on pace for many more innings but he was moved to a reserve role the final two months of the year once the team traded for Yoenis Cespedes.

But despite the injuries, despite the balsa-wood bat and despite the constant importing of outfielders in his Mets tenure, Lagares finished with 2,119 PA. That ranks 38th all-time for the Mets. Interestingly, he’s nestled between Ruben Tejada (2,194 PA) and Wilmer Flores (2,011) on the list. Lagares, Tejada and Flores ended up being the three best offensive international players signed by Omar Minaya. Given how much credit Minaya has been given over the years for his work in this area, this is not a lot of bang for the buck.

In his last year with the Mets, Lagares pulled down $9 million and FanGraphs’ Dollar Values had him contributing (-$6.2) million. Ouch. The pro-Lagares camp will recall his outstanding defensive work from 2013-14 while the rest of us will remember the guy who was injured and ineffective the final five years he played for the club.

So, Mr. Lagares, fare thee well, adios, adieu. And best of luck to you in the future. May you enjoy health and happiness in whatever you do next in your career and life. But it’ll be nice to have a cheaper, more productive player on the team in your spot next year.

14 comments on “A belated sendoff for Juan Lagares

  • marty greenberg

    B.S. Bring him back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

  • Mike Walczak

    Lagares was a good player to have on the team five years ago. With the rosters expanding to 26 next year, teams could use that spot for role players such as defensive replacements. Would rather have a Billy Hamilton type rather than Lagares for less money.

    Juan made out well with his contract. I wish him luck.

  • jrgame

    Will always remember him for his clutch (at the time) hit and then go-ahead run in Game 1 of the 2015 World Series.

  • TJ

    While Juan may not have met expectations based on the contract extension he signed, I’ll thank him for his contributions. I had the pleasure of seeing him man CF in person numerous times, at his pinnacle, back in 2013-2014. His defense was not only excellent, it was beautiful to watch. Certainly, his bat is what held him back most, specifically his pitch recognition and plate discipline when behind in the count. Perhaps, it was also his inability to get in favorable counts enough, something a deep analysis would be able to reveal.

    Regarding his elite defense, he was the best fielding Met CF I ever saw first hand. Injuries along with aging slowed him down. Perhaps he would had developed better without the injuries, but this is a guy that put his body on the line daily in order to record outs, many times at his own expense. For me, that is both admired and appreciated. Additionally, he never made waves publicly and gave 100% when called on. I wish him the best in the future…hopefully not as a Met opponent.

  • NY NIC

    I wonder, if he could be signed on a minor league contact with incentives, would he not be better/just as good as some of the alternatives?

    • Brian Joura

      I’m not a Lagares fan but if he was willing to sign a minor league deal, I’d have no problem bringing him back at those terms.

      • MattyMets

        I always rooted for him and wish him well. I thought he would have blossomed into what basically Kevin Kiermaier has become – a great outfielder and good enough hitter. Shame it didn’t work out. If we need a fifth OF and he’s available on the cheap, I’d bring him back.

  • Eraff

    Billy Hamilton has 3000 pa and a 623 OPS….. please explain the chatter

    • Brian Joura

      I know I’ve been abundantly clear that my desire for Hamilton is as a PR/Defensive Replacement with the goal of minimizing his ABs.

      • Eraff

        Ha! Brian, the comment wasn’t directed at you, but I wouldn’t jump up and raise my hand as The Typhoid Mary of Billy Hamilton Chatter 🙂

        Ok…. lousy hitting, CF’ers who won’t take many abs. They should be good fielders, and they should work cheaply in 2020—How about Juan Lagares and Keon Broxton!!!????

        (That Last Part—that should go all caps right there.)

  • NYM6986

    If we are honest, Lagares turned one outstanding year into a big, at that time, four year contract. His aggressiveness got him injured often but his style of play was what made his defense so strong. When healthy he just could not regain the bat and he became an expensive late inning replacement. He also wasted his speed by not being much of a base stealer. I wish him well – just not playing home games at Citifield.

  • Rob

    Always thought he would become a decent enough hitter. Thought same with Flores too. Just think the player development and minor league coaching is flawed.

  • Mike B

    Lagares will do fine. I bet next season he continues his great defense, will end up hitting higher than Nimmo and Conforto, and hit 15-20 hrs. After hitting .339 last year in just 64PA’s, he should have started this year. Getting Broxton, then Carlos Gomez, then Atherr, was dumb. Lagares got treated just like Justin Turner. If you dont give guys legitimate PSs, dont expect results.

    2015 was the tipping point. Like with Turner, TC gave up on Lagares. When the Mets got Cespedes, who I knew was a bum, it was 8/1. Mets went on to play the worst teams in baseball, the Phils, Braves, Rockies and Marlins. Those 4 on 8/1 were a combined 100 games below .500. Cespedes hit 14 of his 17 hrs vs them. In 1/3 of the abs, Lagares hit 3 hrs and batted .391, including 8 for 16 vs the Rockies. Cespedes, despite 3 hrs in 1 game and 3 double in another, both at Coors Field, both in which Lagares didn’t play in, was 10 for 32 vs them.

    Lagares will have a solid season if given 500 PAs.

    • Brian Joura

      Two thoughts:

      1. Put down the crack pipe – it’s hurting your judgment.
      2. I hope some team signs him and gives him 500 PA, just so you can see it wasn’t the Mets holding him down.

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