While most are currently focused on the bullpen, this Mets team has some other areas it needs to address prior to the start of the 2017 season. One of the main issues facing this team is which player is going to get the last spot on the bench? The Mets infield currently consists of Lucas Duda at first, Neil Walker at second, Asdrubal Cabrera, and David Wright at third, with Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores supplying depth.
At first glance, this may not seem like it is a major issue. If any of the infielders go down with injury, it’s expected that Flores and Reyes can more than capably handle the four infield spots. If two were to go down, we have seen enough from both Flores and Reyes to know that they can at least be a good stopgap option at a position. However, the player who is the last man on the roster will begin to take on a larger role with the team.
Last year, that player was Eric Campbell. While Campbell may have had his positive attributes, he was certainly not capable of playing every day. And yet, when Duda and Wright were injured, that was the position Campbell found himself in. In 2017, there is no reason to believe that all of Duda (back), Wright (spine), Walker (back), or Cabrera (knee) could last a full season. With their extensive injury history, the Mets need a deep bench for 2017 to prevent a player of Campbell’s caliber being a starter for two or more weeks.
For the past two seasons, the Mets have made trades to obtain Kelly Johnson to serve as a bench player. He proved to be a useful player who hit .260/.319/.441 over two brief stints with the Mets. Last year, he was a clutch pinch hitter, launching four pinch hit home runs. He is versatile in his ability to play first, second, third, and both corner outfield positions. The main issue facing Johnson is that he remains unsigned, and at this point, it is questionable whether the Mets have interest in him considering they want to cut payroll before the start of 2017.
One of the options is Terry Collins favorite Ty Kelly. Like Johnson, Kelly is versatile in his ability to play across the infield and the corner outfield positions. In a small sample size of 71 MLB plate appearances, Kelly hit .241/.352/.345 with one home run and seven RBI. His career minor league statistics are much more desirable, as across six seasons, he has hit .285/.389/.389 with as many as 15 home runs in a season (2014).
T.J. Rivera stood out during the 2016 season. Late in the season, with the injuries to Walker and Flores, Rivera grabbed hold of the second base job and hit .333/.346/.476 in 33 games. Unlike Kelly, Rivera has played a fair amount of games at shortstop. With that said, there is a reason why the Mets began transitioning him away from short beginning in AA. Despite that, the fact remains that he is proficient at all four infield positions as well as left field. The main sticking point with Rivera is the fact that he is an aggressive hitter who rarely draws a walk.
Last, but certainly not least, is Matt Reynolds. Unlike the aforementioned players, Reynolds is a legitimate shortstop who quite possibly has the best range out of all the Mets’ major league options. Reynolds has shown he can play second, third, and even some left field. On the downside, Reynolds is the worst hitter of the bunch. In his 47 games with the Mets last year, he only hit .255/.266/.416. In the hitter’s haven that is the Pacific Coast League, he hit only .264/.336/.357 last year. Ultimately, Reynolds is the guy you want out there defensively, but he is not the guy you want at the plate.
Unless the Mets re-sign Johnson, it looks like the fight will be between Kelly, Rivera, and Reynolds for the last spot on the bench. In those three players, the Mets have three intriguing yet flawed players. If the Mets face a number of injuries like they did in 2015 and 2016, they have a couple of options that have proven they can be useful Major League players. With that, it seems the Mets bench should not be a problem for the first time in a good number of years.