Wilmer Flores captured the hearts of Mets fans shortly after the 2015 trade deadline with his walk-off home run against the rival Washington Nationals. This offseason, however, of all the players Mets fans and beat writers have been talking about, Flores seems to be brought up the least.
As of right now, it at least seems like Flores has no place on this team. To that end I ask: Why?
Flores has been improving steadily every season, seeing the most improvement last year. In a season cut short due to injury (which should not affect his play going forward), he hit .271/.307/.488 with 18 home runs in just 110 games and 362 plate appearances. If given a full season of playing time, he would easily eclipse 20 home runs, possibly even approach 30.
The biggest remaining question mark to be addressed this offseason has been almost unanimously determined as second base. Names like Ian Kinsler and Dee Gordon were tossed around before they were traded elsewhere, leaving Josh Harrison and Jason Kipnis as the current targets. Now that we learned a trade for Kipnis was near-done but fell through, the options continue to diminish.
If the Mets are forced to look internally for options at second base, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. While I would love to see Josh Harrison in a Mets uniform, Wilmer Flores playing second base every day could work out. We all know he can hit, but everyone’s first reaction would be something along the lines of, “But he stinks defensively.”
Sure, I can understand that. The shortstop experiment did not work. He’s even worse at the hot corner having put up -17 defensive runs saved there in about 800 innings. He is OK at first base, but now that Jay Bruce has returned as well as the incumbent Dominic Smith, it is unlikely he will see any time there.
His best position is second base. In actuality, he’s actually not bad there at all. He’s not great, nor good. In fact, he’s pretty average. He only played 91.0 innings there this past season, tallying -1 DRS with a 0.1 UZR and 2.5 UZR/150. When the Mets went to the World Series in 2015 he played a lot of second base, 292.1 innings worth. In that time he had -1 DRS, a 2.0 UZR and 8.6 UZR/150.
Basically, what I’m saying is this: Wilmer Flores can play second base and he is capable of holding his own there. He can hit and is capable of putting up very strong offensive numbers at a position that doesn’t typically get good offensive production. I do not think a prediction of .275/.320/.500 with 25 home runs and 75 RBI while playing average defense at second base is particularly outlandish.
To be clear, I am not saying the Mets should consider him their Opening Day second baseman at this point in time. There is a lot of offseason left and a lot of second basemen out there — As I said before, Josh Harrison would be great.
What I am saying is that if the Mets are going to invest a lot of money in a free agent or give away prospects in a trade for a second baseman, they should keep this in mind: Is this player an upgrade over Wilmer Flores? If so, by how much? If it’s only a slight upgrade, is the money or prospects you are sending worth it?
Second base is not the only remaining need this offseason. It might be prudent to address other needs first, like another bullpen arm or perhaps a veteran starter, as the Mets don’t have a strong fallback option for those. They do, however, have a strong fallback option for second base in the form of Wilmer Flores.