There is a lot happening with the Mets right now. The Jason Vargas injury has allowed the proverbial “Five Aces” to finally pitch in the same rotation at the same time. The team is once again considering trading Juan Lagares in an effort to shed his salary. To the amazement of some, Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki are having big springs. And yet, despite all of that, there is one topic that was continuously brought up for this week’s edition of the MMO mailbag:
@Itsjustjimmy asks . . .
When is Bruce playing first base?
Jared W asks . . .
With how good Brandon Nimmo has looked this spring and how bad Adrian Gonzalez has looked, shouldn’t Mickey Callaway be giving Jay Bruce some reps at first base so that Conforto can play RF when healthy?
Michael Mayer says . . .
The Mets are getting to the point that if they’re going to ignore Adam Lind/Mark Reynolds, they have to get Jay Bruce reps at first base. Conforto is hitting and playing the field while Nimmo is looking like an MLB starter.
I realize I might be beating a dead horse here, but the Mets margin error for this season is small and they can’t afford to give regular-season at-bats to a 35-year-old first baseman with back issues that looks washed up when there are clearly better options.
John replies . . .
Whoa boy! This looks like one of those topics that would be lightening up the sports talk switch boards if any of the local sports stations really bothered to talk Mets baseball anymore.
Let’s start with the massive caveat that Spring Training stats are absolutely meaningless. It’s a time to work through things. Just take a look at Steven Matz. In the blink of an eye, he went from the Brooklyn Cyclones fifth starter to someone who has made a case he should be the third starter in this rotation.
You know there is a but coming, so here it is – Gonzalez is 9-47 with 12 strikeouts.
There are many obvious counter-points to this including his being a 14-year veteran who has a great track record. We should also consider this is a time where Gonzalez might be trying out new things this Spring which may have an impact on his results. However, before we go through the lists of caveats, please consider Gonzalez is a career .293/.350/.467 hitter in Spring Training.
Do you know the last time Gonzalez had a Spring this poor? It was last year when Gonzalez hit .226/.314/.258 in Spring Training. An injury-plagued regular season would ensue with Gonzalez hitting .242/.287/.355 in 71 games. Watching him this Spring, the Mets have to ask themselves if this Gonzalez resembles the one who is a career .288/.359/.488 hitter, or does he resemble the player the Braves are paying over $28 million to not play for them?
Put the statistics aside for a moment. Gonzalez is a player who needs to work with a trainer for two hours just to be able to get onto the field. As a Mets fan, this is a little too reminiscent of David Wright. When Gonzalez is finally all stretch and worked out, he has looked old and slow.
Look, for the league minimum, seeing if Gonzalez could revitalize his career was a worthwhile experiment. Even if he was 75% of what he was, that was a valuable player who could buy the Mets time on making important decisions on Nimmo’s and Dominic Smith‘s future.
Speaking of Nimmo, between the second half last year and Spring Training, he looks ready now. With his ability to get on base, the Mets need him atop the lineup every day. When Conforto returns from the Disabled List, the only way that can happen is if Bruce is at first and Nimmo is in center.
On another front, this team is an outfielder short. Really, the team is THIS CLOSE to having to put Wilmer Flores in left field. If the Mets truly believe they are World Series contenders, this can’t happen. That goes double when you consider Lind is eminently available. The Mets have a leg up on everyone too because they can dangle a platoon job at first base to start the season.
In the end, the Mets have to ask themselves if they are better with the more versatile Lind, or if they want to go with a most likely washed up Gonzalez. It’s really that simple. The Mets are either willing to eat a league minimum salary to make this a deeper and much better team, or they are once again going to make a penny wise, pound foolish decision.
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Hopefully, you enjoyed this mailbag as much as I enjoyed answering your questions. Keep the questions and comments coming and make sure to send them to AskMMO@metsmerizedonline.com