New York Mets center fielder Juan Lagares will not require surgery to correct the issue that diminished his throwing capability this past season, reports Adam Rubin of ESPN New York. Lagares was examined by team doctors on Wednesday.
Lagares signed a four-year contract worth $23 million and runs through the 2019 season. The includes a $9.5 million team option for 2020, with a $500,000 buyout.
Lagares, who won a Gold Glove award after the 2014 season, was clearly limited to begin the year and was under team orders not to throw the ball at full throttle for the first three months of the season after resting his sore elbow during the Winter.
Still, Lagares was too tentative on throws and it limited his effectiveness defensively.
“I will take the responsibility,” manager Terry Collins said back in September. “I’m the one guy in spring training who said, ‘We cannot blow this guy out — he’s too big, too important,’ and therefore all of a sudden one of the most important parts of his game was gone, was missing. And I think it changed the way he plays the game a little bit.”
Lagares, 26, lost his regular starting job in center once the Mets acquired Yoenis Cespedes.
But on a positive note, after mediocre offensive results for most of the season, Lagares heeded the advice of new teammate Juan Uribe and began taking a more patient approach to his plate appearances which resulted in a .281 batting average for the final five weeks of the season with a .367 on-base percentage and a .767 OPS.
He carried that success into the postseason where he was second only to Curtis Granderson offensively, yielding a .348/.375/.435 batting line with a .810 OPS. He batted 8-for-23 with two stolen bases and seven runs scored. But more importantly were how impressive his at-bats were including four in which he saw 10 pitches or more.
It’s not very clear yet what Lagares’ role will be next season with Cespedes moving on to greener pastures. But he certainly has put himself back into the conversation and could retake the starting job in center. Especially if he remains committed to this new plate approach.
Assuming Collins is right, and his elbow checks out fine, Lagares could have himself a great comeback season in 2016 offensively and defensively as well.