Nine at-bats. Over David Wright‘s 13-year career with the Mets, he has only pinch hit nine times. Not shocking for a player that was once a perennial All-Star, but this shows that despite his injury history David Wright either starts or sits.
It is no secret that Terry Collins has a tough task ahead in trying to find playing time for all of his infielders. David Wright, if healthy, will be the starting third baseman because of his track record and more importantly his salary. Still, based on production alone it would be a hard to decide who would be the best fit to start at third base, David Wright, Jose Reyes, or even Wilmer Flores.
Wright had a rough go of it last year. Injuries kept him off of the field for all but 37 games. With 55 strikeouts in 164 plate appearances, Wright hardly resembled his old self. One could argue that his best attribute for the team is his leadership. It is crucial to the Mets’ success that their captain is with them for the entirety of the season. While it seems like a longshot that he can maintain his health, the best way to keep him on the field and off of the disabled list is well apportioned rest.
Before Wright got hurt last year the Mets were 28-19. In those 47 games, Wright started 36 times and pinch hit once. At that rate over 162 games, Wright would have started about 125 games last year. Coming into 2017, playing Wright that much is too ambitious of a strategy for someone with spinal stenosis and is also coming off neck surgery.
The Mets should strongly consider primarily bringing Wright off of the bench to pinch hit in clutch situations, specifically against lefties. Keeping Wright off of the field defensively will be the best way to preserve his career. Ideally he would become a designated hitter, but since this is not possible pinch hitting is the next best thing. There will be an adjustment period to learning how to get his body ready to come off the bench, but it has to be better for his back than all of the time spent at third base where sudden movements can cause injury.
With Jose Reyes being the team’s best lead-off hitter, the drop off in production would not be great if there is even a drop off at all. Wright should still start against all left-handed pitchers, and if available he can start all 10 games as a DH during interleague play. Last year the Mets faced a left-handed starter 37 times. With a few other starts throughout the year this could give him around 50 starts. If he can stay healthy and is frequently used as a pinch hitter, Wright would be looking at around 250 to 300 plate appearances. This is a realistic number that would keep him fresh and available throughout the year and into October.
The reality is depth at third base is no longer a problem for this team. Between Jose Reyes, Wilmer Flores, and even T.J. Rivera lurking in the minor leagues, the Mets have a plethora of suitable options that could play third base every day. David Wright will probably be remembered as the greatest position player in franchise history. Because of that he deserves the right to play everyday and he is most likely going to get that opportunity. Still, the most important thing is to keep the captain in the clubhouse, and playing off the bench would be a great way to do that.