We try new things in life and some of those things work out great and others – not so much. Hopefully, we keep what’s working and stop doing things that didn’t turn out so hot. It’s no different with your favorite sports team. Let’s take the Knicks for an example. Last offseason they added or brought back as free agents four players who figured to be in their top seven. And for the most part, those players didn’t work for the club. And now three of them are gone and they’d like the fourth one to be elsewhere, too.
You hear a lot of Knicks fans grumbling about how bad the last offseason was – and they’re right. But it’s also true that the Knicks did what they had to do to move on from mistakes. They didn’t let pride keep them from doing the right thing. Management decided that some bad PR from the fanbase wasn’t going to keep them from improving the team, even if it meant that they had to admit that they blew it the previous offseason.
Which brings us to the Mets and Eduardo Escobar.
It seems like Escobar is a beloved teammate. Perhaps that was part of the reason that he was signed by the club but it seems much, much more likely that he was brought in to provide a power bat, having hit 63 HR in the past two full seasons. With the first three months of the season, a handful of games shy of half the year, in the books, Escobar has just 6 HR.
We can debate the reasons for his power outage and decreased performance. Perhaps it’s the new baseballs or maybe it’s playing in a tougher home park. It might even be Father Time winning out, as Escobar is in his age-33 season and it’s not like that’s an age where it’s unheard of for players being done as regulars. One thing we can’t do is claim this as bad luck, as he has a .280 BABIP, compared to the .279 mark he posted in 2021 and the .283 he had in 2019.
The issue is that Escobar didn’t have a track record for hitting for a good AVG or drawing lots of walks. His offensive profile needed a .200+ ISO to work. Instead, we see an AVG 31 points below where it was a year ago and an ISO 66 points below last season. That’s a bad combination. On top of that, Escobar has a career-worst K%, striking out 25.5% of the time.
And the thing is, he started off in good shape. At the end of April, Escobar sported an .804 OPS. But the problem was that his lack of power was being masked by an unusual number of walks. Escobar drew 15 BB in his first 90 PA, a 16.7 BB%. He has a lifetime 7.0 BB%. While the walks were piling up in the first month of the year, the power wasn’t there. In April, Escobar had a .174 ISO.
Since May 1, Escobar has a 4.5 BB% and a .145 ISO.
He’s getting eaten alive by RHP. For the season, Escobar has a .199/.271/.309 line against righties in 203 PA. And it’s been worse than that recently. Since May 1, he has a .524 OPS versus RHP with a .105 ISO in 133 PA.
The one piece of good news in all of this is that he’s doing better than expected versus southpaws. For the season, Escobar has a .275/.310/.525 line against lefties. That’s a higher AVG and the type of SLG (perhaps better there, too) that was expected with the signing – a .250 ISO.
So, do the Mets keep throwing him out there day after day or do they platoon him moving forward? They have a solid platoon option, as Luis Guillorme has a .792 OPS against RHP. The problem with committing to that platoon is that Guillorme has that mark with a .385 BABIP, one not likely to continue going forward. Additionally, Guillorme provides very little power, with an .072 ISO against righties.
Everyone talks about the Mets needing an upgrade at DH. And they certainly need better production than they’ve gotten from the spot all season when someone besides Pete Alonso is in the spot. But they need better production from 3B, too.
The Mets have tried different people and different strategies with the DH. My hope was that they would give Dominic Smith three weeks with the majority of PA to see if he could produce with consistent playing time. But the Mets have faced lefty starters in three of the past four games, along with two off days. Buck Showalter has started J.D. Davis against the LHP and he’s gone 2-10 with 3 Ks. Smith may not have done any better. But he’s not getting consistent ABs, either.
Buck Showalter started Guillorme over Escobar against the only RHP they’ve seen in the last six days. Unfortunately for Guillorme, that was Justin Verlander, who’s been having a CY Award-type season. And we don’t know if this was the beginning of a platoon or just trying to give Escobar two days off when combined with yesterday’s off day.
Playing Escobar nearly every day has not been a good move the past two months. It will be curious to see if Showalter uses a platoon at third base going forward. And there remains the chance – however small at the current moment – that the club will promote top prospect Mark Vientos and give him some playing time. Vientos, who is not a good defensive player but whose best spot in the field is 3B, has put up a .286/.391/.579 line in 156 PA since 5/1 in Triple-A. He also has 12 HR in that span.
It’s tough to throw a rookie into a big role in a pennant race when he’s never been in the majors previously. But the Mets did that with Michael Conforto in 2015. And while not in a pennant race, the club called up Amed Rosario in 2017 and he got the majority of starts at shortstop the final two months of the season.
The hope is that the two days off invigorates Escobar and he hits the rest of 2022 like he did his past two full seasons. Yet at some point, hope isn’t enough. If he continues to flounder, will Showalter and the Mets come up with a plan to try something different at third base? They could utilize a platoon or they could call up Vientos. Or they could look to trade for a 3B at the deadline.
You hear about the Mets being in the market for a DH or a reliever. There’s even been talk about chasing starting pitching. But no one ever mentions 3B. Perhaps the trade deadline acquisition will be Patrick Wisdom and his 16 HR and .243 ISO. That’s the player the Mets thought they were getting with Escobar.
It wouldn’t be a great look if Billy Eppler had to make a move to acquire a 3B after he signed one to a two-year deal this past offseason. But, as the Knicks have shown us recently, sometimes you have to admit defeat in order to move forward. The Mets aren’t at that point yet with Escobar. But they might be at the trade deadline.