In the minds of most New York Mets’ fans, the hunt for Jose Reyes’ replacement — now four seasons after his uncontested free-agent departure — is still an on-going journey. Needless to say, current Mets’ shortstop Wilmer Flores’ performance through May is doing little to inspire fans to move on.
Despite a respectable park-adjusted 100 wRC+, Flores is currently hitting .238, while only having drawn five walks over 110 plate appearances.
And his defense? According to UZR/150, the 23-year-old’s 4.8 metric ranks 13th amongst all eligible shortstops. But then again, just three games ago, his UZR/150 sat at minus-8.5. Flores also made his 8th error in dramatic fashion on Thursday, handing the Chicago Cubs two runs.
In an off-season where the Mets’ greatest need was a shortstop, general manager Sandy Alderson’s decision to knight Wilmer Flores as the starter might retrospectively seem like, well, a mistake.
But perhaps Mets’ fans — and the baseball world — should cut Alderson and Flores some slack.
While Flores’ production as a starter has been subpar to-date, the other reasonable shortstop options from the offseason aren’t performing much better.
From a cost perspective, Asdrubal Cabrera seemed like a perfect free-agent fit for the Mets. Instead, the Tampa Bay Rays swooped in, and signed Cabrera to a team-friendly one-year, $7.5 million contract.
The Rays’ hope for a renaissance season (Cabrera posted a 2.6 fWAR as recent as 2012), however, increasingly appears to be a long shot. The 29-year-old has hit to the tune of a .209 batting average, 68 wRC+, with just one home run this season. Assuming Cabrera’s sterling (and uncharacteristic) 37.3 UZR/150 fizzles, he might even become a legitimate candidate to be released.
And would Mets’ fans be happier with former-division rival, Jimmy Rollins?
The Los Angeles Dodgers are likely regretting their acquisition of Rollins, which cost them two pitching prospects — including Zach Eflin. The 36-year-old has posted a .175 batting average, 60 wRC+, with an unfruitful minus-3.1 UZR/150 in the field. Meanwhile Freddy Galvis’ 129 wRC+ has undoubtedly helped Philadelphia Phillies’ fans forget about the 16-year veteran.
Alderson was also correct to end his pursuit of Chicago White Sox’s shortstop,
Back in November 2014, CBS Chicago’s Bruce Levine opined that the Mets’ surplus of young starting pitchers fit the White Sox’s asking price for Ramirez. Despite being in “high demand” in the offseason, the 33-year-old has sported a 3.3 percent walk rate this season — which is unconscionably worse than Flores’ rate.
Ramirez’s .241 batting average, 69 wRC+, and minus-5.9 UZR/150 should make all Mets’ fan shudder about the prospect of dealing Rafael Montero (and more) for the struggling infielder.
Considering Flores was a three-time Baseball America Top-100 prospect once upon a time, Alderson’s decision to give him a shot is what organizations should do, especially at a thin position like shortstop. And given the struggles of so many shortstops in 2015 — even high-caliber players like Troy Tulowitzki (95 wRC+), and Ian Desmond (70 wRC+) — it makes sense for the Mets to stay patient with the young Flores.
At least, for the time being.
In the event Flores continues to struggle — and Alderson determines the trade still market isn’t ripe — the Mets could turn to infield prospect Matt Reynolds. Reynolds, 24, is hitting .296 with a 117 wRC+, and 9.2 percent walk rate at Triple-A. Shifted from third base to shortstop last season, his defense is still a work-in-progress.
As SNY.tv’s Toby Hyde noted in August 2014:
Looking at [Matt Reynolds’] numbers and projecting his stats shows nothing to suggest that Reynolds is an above-average everyday shortstop. […] That Reynolds might be an improvement as the Mets’ everyday shortstop says a lot about the Mets, and a little about Reynolds, who would most likely be a below-average everyday guy at the position.
Alderson’s strategy to not overpay for shortstop in the thin trade market is a prudent one. But if Mets’ fans lack the patience to deal with growing pains, barring a blockbuster deal, Alderson could be forced to pull the trigger on a Mike Bordick 2.0 acquisition.
Statistics sourced from FanGraphs, as of May 15, 2015.