Throughout the offseason and even through the early stages of Spring Training, the New York Mets have made it obvious that they want David Wright to be an integral part of the 2017 season. Of course, on paper it makes sense to want a lifetime .296 hitter slotted into the lineup. But it goes without saying that these past two seasons have been tumultuous on the injury spectrum for Wright. Spinal Stenosis has taken its toll on the captain of the Mets, restricting him to only 75 games over the past two seasons. It has had such a drastic effect on Wright that he has not yet thrown a baseball in 2017. This made the Mets brass think. How could they fit Wright into the lineup when he is a potential fielding and injury liability? Then, the idea struck them: Stick him at first.
Of course, this idea is easier said than done. Wright is entering his age 34 season, and has only played the left side of the infield. Could they teach an old dog new tricks? Possibly, as the Twins did so with Joe Mauer. Mauer had previous experience at the position though, and has had a rather smooth transition. Mark Teixiera was once a third baseman, but of course he made the transition way earlier in his career than Wright would. There is also still the issue of Wright being able to throw the ball. While First Basmen typically throw less than the hot corner, they still make throws that are vital to the game. Whether it be throwing to shortstop to turn two, or throwing home on as a cutoff man, there are throws that simply can’t be ignored.
While there are risks, there could also be potentially be rewards to training Wright at the position. Wright could make starts at First Base when the Mets face a left-handed pitcher. This would make sense because Wright has crushed left-handed pitching throughout his career, while the man slated to start at first, Lucas Duda, has struggled mightily. The Mets could implement a slow transition to first for Wright, starting him there only against left-handed pitching. The experience Wright would gain at first would lessen the blow of the potential departure of Lucas Duda, who will become a free agent at the end of the season. This is a potential situation for a smooth transition of Wright to First Base.
While moving Wright to first may be pure speculation at this point, it may be worth considering. The position will take less of a toll on Wright’s back, which is important if Wright wants to stretch out his career. It could also be beneficial to the Mets, as they would posses an option at first that could hit against left-handed pitching, which could give Lucas Duda some needed games off. While worth considering, the potential issues that may arise cannot be left out of the picture. It is a lot of ifs, ands, or buts for Wright and the Mets to consider entering the 2017 season and beyond.
15 comments on “Can David Wright transition to first base?”
Given the constellation of Wrights issues its a no brainer. The other hand hing is becoming a platoon partner that faces lefty pitching makes abundant sense. He gets a reduced number of starts that optimize his skills. Even a reduced Wright playing first against lefty would be a lot better than seeing him melt at 3B. He’s got a great glove, which would play naturally. He will never be an every day guy again, so he won’t be blocking Dom Smith who can break into the bigs facing rightys.
Don’t forget Ryan Zimmerman who moved from 3B to 1B, and even chipper jones had to leave 3B to play OF.
Note: Dom Smith has a strong split in favor of RHP, so platooning with DW makes sense from that perspective.
I don’t agree with the thesis that playing 1B is easier on his back.
Fewer throws, yes, I can see that.
But first base is not the geriatric wing of the ballfield. It’s still an actual athletic position. See: Mattingly, Don.
Holding runners on — and doing it right — is surprisingly tough on the back. You are bent low, holding a crouch, waiting, waiting, ready to make micro-adjustments, then the pitcher goes to the plate and you nimbly skip off into fielding position. Next pitch, you do it again. Then again. Then again. And so on.
It’s not easy, and during those plays you are working your back a lot harder than every other position player except the catcher.
You are also involved in more plays.
In general, fans talk about changing positions a lot, lot more than it is actually done in real baseball. There are good reasons for that. Harder than it looks.
And anyone who recalls the 2015 WS will note that throwing is an underrated aspect of the position. Win Game 5, Mets have deGrom and Syndergaard ready to go. Who knows.
I don’t see the competitive advantage of playing David Wright at 1B, but that’s a separate conversion.
Jimmy P – I agree with you. As Terry Collins said last year, it’s not like Little League, where you put the fat kid at first. At the advanced levels, first base is a very challenging position to play.
Having to reach and stretch out on nearly every put out does not make 1B a viable option. He had a degenerative condition. Moving across the diamond to first could actually do more damage by putting more stress on the lower back and spine due to basic demands of the position.
Small sample size warning, but here’s DW’s slash line vs. LHP in 2016:
Here’s Flores vs. LHP in 2016:
So we want to move DW over to 1B because once upon a time . . . ?
I dont think Wright has back issues. Even this week pictures show no issue with him bending:
Wright’s sugery was a vertebrae fusion in his neck. I simply dont see issues with that. How much the stenosis figures into this is a separate matter. On that all we can tell today is that he can bend his back, he prepares to play the game, and he belives he can do it at MLB level.
Sure, Mattingly had his similar situation, but the idea you cant hide less athletic people at 1B fails to see who actually does play 1B, like Pujols, Chris Carter, Ryan ZImmerman, David Ortiz just to name a few (and Dom Smith coming up). Its the least athletic spot on the infield, or at least the place you can put your least athletic person. Wright has a great glove and that would work well at 1B. Hes a short hop expert. Of course a 1B has to throw a ball, but its vastly smaller than almost every play at 3B.
If he cannot throw a ball, cannot prepare to hit, and cannot run, then he has no business on a ball field. Im closer to thinking that is reality than him playing. But, if he is green lighted to play, platooning him in a spot where he would optimize his hitting against lefty’s, get more time to recover, have to throw less, and still take advantage of his substantial glove skills, getting him to 1B makes more sense than any other option on the diamond (except for DH against lefty’s).
I’d rather not move him to 1b unless he really can’t make the throws from 3b.
Duda and Wright have been better hitters than Reyes, Cabrera, and Flores. It would be better to get Wright his starts on the left side of the infield and cut back on the starts of the others. Flores can be the platoon guy with Duda
I have no reason to believe that he can show up and Play Baseball, so the question of a position change seems ridiculous.
Who in the front office/managerial staff has stated to ” stick him at first”. I was under the believe that it wasn’t a consideration by the “brass”.
Last season, Duda was injured but in 2015 he finally solved hitting vs LHP and had a slash at 285/333/545/878 with 7 HRS. That is not considered “struggled mightily”. It is considered to be more like “maturing as a hitter”.
There are 20 million reasons to transition Wright to first base if he throws worse than Flores and still hits like David Wright. This spring should be very telling if Wright has a future in baseball. I hope he does.
really, 67 million reasons.
As for Duda, I dont believe he will be a Met next year. I think his leash against LHP will be short. Those 2015 numbers…Im not buying its a “figuring things out” until we see it again, otherwise, its an anomaly!
Can the Mets collect on D Wright Insurance if he Retires?
Otherwise, he may discover that he cannot play, but they will need to play out a Charade that includes him “Trying to Play”. It will include Him getting paid, and the Mets collecting…and lots of hand wringing.
My position on this is that David Wright has plenty of money and is an honorable man who sincerely loves the NY Mets organization.
Also, he wants to play baseball — once had HOF talent — and still believes in his core ability.
In this phase, he goes for it. He tries to overcome the odds. And it is essential that the organization supports this effort.
In the next phase, after a combination of physical setbacks and diminishing performances, he’s going to do some soul searching. And I believe at that point he’ll seek a mutually agreeable way for him to retire — without leaving all that coin on the table.
Cuddyer, his very good buddy, came to a similar conclusion. The model already exists. Some kind of undisclosed buyout/payoff — a number I can’t pretend to guess, though I do think that Cuddyer probably did okay with his package.
I don’t see “charade” in his future. It’s going to require deft, sensitive handling from both sides.
Jim…no disagreement, but he has lots of Money on the table. Again, my question is whether he can retire and be paid…with the Mets collecting on Insurance.
I don;t expect them to chase him away=—he deserves the chance to try, and I have nothing but admiration and full support toward his miracle recovery—but that doesn’t answer my question.
DW has made more than 100M$ already. Its 20 more this year. Its leaving money, but if he cannot play, I agree with JP that he will gracefully step aside.
Also, I believe Wright will be employed by the team as the face of the franchise for decades to come. The torch has been passed from The Franchise to Mr Met.