While the Mets had been blessed with good health for most of Spring Training, the injuries are now starting to mount. The latest is Juan Lagares‘ oblique strain.
Back in 2014, Lagares had a similar injury which cost him 22 games. If this latest oblique strain is similar in nature, he will assuredly begin the season on the disabled list. With the relative unpredictability of oblique injuries, no one can really guarantee when Lagares will be able to play again. That’s a huge problem as he’s the only true center fielder the Mets have.
Curtis Granderson is the team’s everyday center fielder, but that’s a product of his offense. Given his age, 36, and him having to be moved away from center earlier in his career, the Mets need a backup to help share some of the load.
This could be a job for Brandon Nimmo, but he’s dealing with a hamstring injury from the World Baseball Classic. The Lagares and Nimmo injuries could create an opportunity for Michael Conforto, however, Conforto is not a natural center fielder either, and the Mets want him getting regular at-bats anyway.
The Mets’ other potential options like T.J. Rivera and Ty Kelly also aren’t center fielders. The Mets have toyed with the idea of Jose Reyes, but he hasn’t played much there. Moreover, this also means the Mets would have to go with Wilmer Flores at third.
Essentially, the Mets are faced with a number of bad options in center until Lagares returns, whenever that happens. Fortunately for the Mets, a seemingly perfect solution for their current center field problem has emerged with Drew Stubbs opting out of his contract with the Minnesota Twins.
Stubbs is a career .244/.314/.397 hitter. From 2010-2014, Stubbs was an everyday player who averaged 19 doubles, three triples, 15 homers, 50 RBI, and 27 stolen bases a year.
Clearly Stubbs isn’t a great hitter, but he is two things the Mets need: (1) right-handed and (2) speedy. Notably, Stubbs is a career .272/.348/.444 hitter against left-handed pitchers. This is marginally better than the .276/.322/.412 hitter Lagares is. To that extent, Stubbs presents an upgrade over Lagares. However, as we all know Stubbs isn’t in the same class as Lagares defensively – no one is.
But… in center field, Stubbs has averaged a -1 DRS and -1.3 UZR. These are hardly outstanding numbers, but the numbers do establish Stubbs can handle center competently. When you consider the alternatives, the Mets could do a lot worse. Overall, he is a good fit for a Mets team that needs a center fielder, a right-handed bench bat, and some speed. Having a player like him available at this point in Spring Training is a godsend.
According to Anthony DiComo of mlb.com, though, the Mets aren’t interested. This is a mistake. The Mets need a center fielder. The Mets need a right-handed bench bat. The team could use some more speed. The Mets need to break the habit of relying on injured players. They can break that bad habit by signing Stubbs.