Michael Conforto is working his way back from a serious shoulder injury but is expected to be sidelined until May the earliest, and with Yoenis Cespedes coming off an injury riddled 2017 campaign, can the Mets really afford to make a move?
It would surely put them in a bind.
Beyond injury concerns, Lagares benefits the team as a fourth or fifth outfielder and gives them depth at a position where they are overall rather thin.
His range in the outfield is almost unmatched by any other player in the league, and his arm strength is also above average. In 2018, he had seven assists in just 85 games (only 58 started), with a 1.99 range factor per game. He also had 15 defensive runs saved (DRS) and a 10.4 ultimate zone range (UZR) in 566.2 innings in center. These qualities led him to winning the Gold Glove in 2014, and his defensive abilities are the best of all Mets outfielders by far.
Should they choose to trade Lagares, the next man in line would be Matt den Dekker, who is also stronger defensively, but also can’t hit a lick at the plate. Beyond that, it gets a little murky.
The Mets have experimented with other players in the outfield that aren’t outfielders, most recently the ever displaced Wilmer Flores.
Over a 162-game span, keeping your fingers crossed that your core four (Conforto, Cespedes, Jay Bruce and Nimmo) can survive a whole campaign without injury is less than shrewd.
With Lagares’s big contract (he is due $6.5 million in 2018 and $9 million in 2019 before hitting free agency), the package the Mets would likely get in return won’t be sexy, unless on the off chance a team really gets desperate.
If the Mets get a big league player that can benefit the team immediately, they would likely do it, however, it seems more likely they would receive a minor leaguer or two. The answer to trading him then is less clear.
A trade like that could be valuable for the Mets, but it is probably better done in the middle of the season rather than before it starts and if the Mets are in contention, it likely won’t happen.
At the end of the day, Lagares has failed to stay healthy in his big league career and has struggled offensively, but may very well succeed if he does in fact platoon with Nimmo to begin the season, then drop down to a reserve role.
Unless the team has a backup plan for replacing him or they get an offer too good to pass up, they shouldn’t blindly trade him and just hope for good health, because it’s highly unlikely that will happen over a grueling season.