Every team has roster turnover from one year to the next. Ideally, you clean out the dead weight and don’t lost anyone too important from the previous year. Let’s take a look at the guys who saw at least some playing time – defined here as hitters with a minimum of 20 ABs in 2019 – who won’t return to the Mets in 2020.
There were nine players who met our minimum AB threshold. Of those nine, the only one who will be missed is Frazier, who put up a 106 OPS+ and was a solid fielder at third base. But the Mets hope that some of his PA will be picked up by Jeff McNeil and others to Yoenis Cespedes. If that’s how it works out, there may not be any offensive dropoff at all. In fact, one might even forecast an increase in production.
As for the rest of the list – wow, that’s some terrible production. The eight non-Frazier departees combined for a .205/.267/.325 line in 777 PA.
The hope is that magically you can replace that lousy offense with something closer to average. The reality is that you’re always going to have this type of performance on your squad, regardless of the year. We regret the playing time given to Lagares, Hechavarria and Gomez in 2019. But the 2018 team responds with Jose Reyes (251 PA/62 OPS+), Austin Jackson (210 PA/79 OPS+) and Adrian Gonzalez (187 PA,/88 OPS+). And 2017 gave us Rene Rivera (187 PA/77 OPS+), Matt Reynolds (130 PA/71 OPS+) and Gavin Cecchini (82 PA/43 OPS+)
So, what can we gather from this? Last year, the injury to Brandon Nimmo opened up a lot of playing time in the outfield. And not one person was able to step up and come up with a well-timed hot streak. You can argue that Nimmo’s injury gave playing time to J.D. Davis and that’s at least partly true. But the team’s insistence on playing a “traditional” center fielder led to too many PA for Lagares, Gomez, Altherr, Broxton and Davis.
Injuries to Robinson Cano gave some infield playing time to reserves. Hechavarria was on the receiving end of a lot of this extra time and while he had a brief hot streak in the beginning, at the end of the day he hit like his career numbers suggested he would.
Outside of not moving Michael Conforto to CF sooner than they did, it’s hard to criticize the Mets’ decision making with replacing Nimmo. Brodie Van Wagenen was praised for the guys he brought in, both at the major and minor league level, as outfield depth. It just worked out that they all stunk. And the system didn’t have a homegrown major league-ready outfielder available. Sometimes you’re just dealt a bad hand.
But giving as much time to Hechavarria that they did was a bit of a head scratcher. Yes, he did show some unexpected power early on in his Mets tenure. But there was no reason to believe that Hechavarria was going to be much (if any) better than Luis Guillorme. And since it was always going to be tough to imagine Hechavarria being on the club long, they had Guillorme as a pre-arb player. They should have given him a chance with consistent PA. Perhaps the most likely outcome was no better than Hechavarria. But the chance, however slight, for something better – and Guillorme did have an .839 OPS in his final 28 games – should have been taken.
Here’s hoping that a healthy Cespedes and Jed Lowrie are creatures that exist in 2020. Those two will soak up a lot of ABs if they’re able to go. But even if they are good to go, there will still be some player on the roster to get 100 PA or more who makes you wince. Let’s hope this is limited to the backup catcher and not multiple spots with multiple attempted solutions.