Philosophy Of Flexibility Part II – Infield Evaluation

wilmer flores

In part one of the Philosophy of Flexibility I outlined the different types of flexibility that are used to construct a baseball team. These areas were positional, lineup, pitching and financial flexibility. Applying this lens to the Mets current roster, the biggest area of concern from this perspective is the construction of the infield.

Infield Evaluation

Assuming Lucas Duda is not traded, he will be our first baseman in 2016 with Michael Cuddyer possibly seeing a handful of starts there as well. Though many have their gripes on Duda’s streakiness and Cuddyer’s disappointments, this duo should still rank in the top half of performance in the majors so let’s leave this position alone for now.

Instead, I’d like to turn our focus to the other three positions which are currently being slotted by Dilson Herrera, Wilmer Flores and David Wright, each who provide immense value based on their past history or future potential but at the same time are major question marks.

All three players require adequate playing time so that we can know if they can perform, but at the same time, we also want to have a legitimate option to fill in for any of the three if one of them falters (a very likely scenario). Our goal here is to find a player who we can either start at shortstop (start 100-140 games) which allows Flores to be your super utility player or one who can serve as that super utility player himself.

So what we want to look for is a player who complements the trio of Wright, Flores and Herrera and we start by identifying a few areas we can improve. The first such area that stands out is that all three have much better numbers against LHP than RHP.

The second area of concern is that Flores is not yet an established defender at SS. Defensive metrics rate him as average defensively and he played very well in the playoffs but I believe he needs to continue that play for a longer stretch before we peg him as an adequate shortstop.

Finally, a third area of improvement is adding some speed and a stolen base threat to the lineup, a skill-set that we sorely lack on our roster.

Infield Candidates

With these three areas identified, the ideal candidate would have these qualities in order of importance:

  1. Must hit well against RHP.
  2. Plays average to above average defense at SS and capable of playing 2B/3B.
  3. Has above average speed and is capable of leading off.

Now that we know that type of player we are looking for, it’s easy to identify some candidates. Two players who fit this mold are Brock Holt and Marwin Gonzalez but because neither is likely available in a trade, I will not include them in the following list. Two other candidates that would qualify, Brad Miller and Jed Lowrie have already been acquired. Those who are left and should be realistically available are the following:

  • Ben Zobrist, FA – An established hitter who’s strongest skill set may be his flexibility. I am a little concerned on whether he can have the range and quickness to play SS in the next few seasons at ages 35-38 if he gets that four-year deal he’s looking for.
  • Daniel Murphy, FA – He doesn’t play SS but he does play 1B. He is also the best hitter out of this group and by far the best hitter against RHP. If you start him 10 games at 1B, 70 games at 2B and 60 games at 3B, that leaves plenty of playing time for Herrera and Wright to show what they are capable of.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera, FA – Is he average or below average defensively? Eye test and sabermetrics seem to be inconclusive for Cabrera in this regard. He wouldn’t make much sense if he cannot play SS since his bat is not that valuable.
  • Jose Ramirez, CLE – Just 22 years old, Ramirez is a switch hitting SS capable of leading off and plays solid defense. He lost his job to top prospect Francisco Lindor after struggling to start the season. I believe this would be a great time to buy low on a player who still has the potential to be an everyday SS.
  • Jose Reyes, COL – He has near identical splits against RHP and LHP and gives you the much needed backup option as a leadoff hitter should Curtis Granderson get hurt. Everything indicates that Colorado would be very willing to move him so he should be dirt cheap in a trade. However, he recently caught a domestic violence charge and that could be an issue, plus he’s owed $44 million over the next two seasons.
  • Jurickson Profar, TEX – Former #1 ranked prospect in all of baseball who is coming off shoulder surgery (throwing shoulder). There are concerns about whether he can still be productive at the plate or at SS and the Rangers are probably better off holding onto him as a lotto ticket than selling low on him. Scouts were impressed with him during the just completed AFL season.

Final Analysis

Once again, the primary goal is to find a player who can play multiple positions which enable the trio of Herrera, Flores and Wright to all have adequate playing time. This will also serve as insurance should a player get injured or perform poorly. The secondary goal is to find a player who can complement them so that Terry Collins can maximize their values in pitching and defensive matchups.

No one knows for sure how much these guys are asking for in free agency or how much GMs are asking for in a trade so the only correct answer on who should be signed or acquired should depend on their price in money or their price in assets we must give up. With that said, if I had to venture a guess on their asking prices, I believe the best value and flexibility will be with one of Daniel Murphy or Jose Ramirez.