Two things have basically been true about Wilmer Flores since joining the New York Mets organization in 2007: he possesses great talent, but has lacked a true role with the Mets. What could his role with the team be in 2018 and beyond?
On August 6, 2007, Wilmer Alejandro (Garcia) Flores signed out of Venezuela with the Mets organization on his 16th birthday. For the next six years, Flores would impress in the Mets farm system. He was consistently ranked in Baseball America’s and Baseball Prospectus’ top-100 prospect lists. He was a player whose best attributes were getting hits and driving in runs.
The biggest question surrounding his impending MLB debut and career with the Mets was what position he would play. Flores has never been positively known for his defense. On the contrary, he has been notorious for it.
Flores began his career as a shortstop, but had to switch positions as he grew and developed. He focused on second base and third base towards the latter part of his minor league career. This didn’t really help his major league chances though, since Daniel Murphy and David Wright were mainstays at second and third.
However, after Wright suffered a hamstring injury on August 2, 2013, the third base position opened up. Flores was added to the roster a few days later after Bobby Parnell was put on the disabled list for a herniated disk. On his birthday, exactly six years from the day the Mets signed him, Flores made his long-awaited major league debut.
The Struggle To Carve An Identity
Flores got 95 at-bats in 2013. Out of the 95, 90 came when he was at third base, four came when he was at second base, and one came when he was a pinch hitter. This focus at third base, in addition to his subpar offensive production, did not earn him an everyday position going into 2014. After all, he wasn’t unseating Wright at the time. While he could’ve easily taken Ruben Tejada‘s job at shortstop (who was injured during this period in 2013), his poor defense prevented that from happening at the time.
In 2014, Flores simply served as a player whom the Mets used at their own convenience. He was sent to the minors during spring training, called up April 2 as Murphy went on paternity leave, sent down three days later, called up May 8, and sent down June 25 before finally being called up for good on July 24. Flores’ playing time during the season came primarily at shortstop and secondarily at first base. The team took a different tune to him playing at shortstop a season after keeping him away from there.
Flores didn’t have to worry about being sent up and down multiple times from 2015-2017. Other problems regarding his role with the team occurred instead. While he did get starts during these three years, a commitment was still not made.
At 9:46 pm on that fateful night, Flores was spotted shedding tears on the field after learning about the trade. However, the trade did not happen and two nights later he ended up hitting a walk-off home run in a critical matchup against the Washington Nationals. These two events etched his legacy with the team and made him an instant fan favorite. Things seemed to be turning around for Flores who played in a 137 games that season. It looked like he would take his place on the team as the full-time shortstop.
In 2016, Flores manned third base more than any other position. In 2015 he mostly played at shortstop, but in 2016 he played more third base, first base, and second base than shortstop. Also he got less playing during the season even when healthy. This is because the Mets signed Asdrubal Cabrera to take care of the shortstop position. They signed a similar offensive player who played better defense. This lessened Flores’ importance to the team.
Flores was in a similar position in 2017. He actually didn’t get any at-bats at shortstop, and played more third base, first base, and second base in that order. When healthy and playing, he did well, but he again did not receive as much playing time as he did in 2015 because of injuries, Cabrera’s presence, Neil Walker‘s presence, T.J. Rivera‘s presence, Jose Reyes‘ presence, and later Amed Rosario‘s presence.
What Is His Role Going Forward?
A player’s role with their team isn’t always carved out immediately. It becomes clear as they prove themselves or fail to do so. Flores has proved himself offensively, but still hasn’t done so defensively speaking. However, he wasn’t being blocked by Ozzie Smith. He was primarily being blocked by a guy who put up negative dWAR numbers the two years he’s been with the Mets.
Flores may have finally gotten a permanent role in 2018 if the Mets did not exercise Cabrera’s third-year option, but on Friday they decided to pick up the option.
With Rosario manning shortstop, Flores, Cabrera, Rivera, Gavin Cecchini, and Matt Reynolds are all players on the 40-man roster who are in the mix to play second base and third base. If Wright ever makes a return you can add in a sixth name to that list. Furthermore, the Mets seem to be open to a reunion with Reyes who officially became a free agent on Thursday.
All signs point to Flores not having an everyday role once again in 2018. If they wanted to commit to Flores, Cabrera wouldn’t be back. It’s possible he could get the bulk of the playing time if he proves himself worthy, but even then there are just too many players eligible for those two positions. They will cut into his playing time regardless.
It’s very possible Flores has more to give, but if things keep going in the same direction year after year, he may be giving his all to another team. He is still only 26-years-old. It’s hard to confidently say this is all he has when a commitment to him has never been fully made.
Flores’ immediate future looks to be the same as the last two seasons. What comes after is unknown, but Flores would benefit from a full-time gig. He’ll get it sometime in his career, but like Justin Turner, that may unfortunately come with another team.