Wilmer Flores has been a homegrown treasure for the New York Mets and a hero to their fan base. His prowess for hitting lefties, his natural knack for coming up with the big hit, and his obvious love for the game are just a few of Flores’ more endearing traits as a ballplayer.
At just 27, the Venezuelan native is just entering the true prime of his career. Since signing with the Mets in 2007, the organization had high hopes for Flores as a player. Over the first six years of his MLB career, he’s proven to be a more than capable hitter and viable defender, though his glove certainly isn’t his strong suit.
Through 581 games, Flores has a .262/.303/.424 slash line with 162-game averages of 19 home runs, 71 runs batted in, and 27 doubles. His career 100 OPS+ tells us all what we already know; Wilmer Flores is an average major leaguer, no more, no less.
His exploits against left-handed pitching have been well-documented and are likely what’s kept him around more than a couple of times in his young career. Flores has a career .780 OPS against southpaws compared to a .706 mark against righties.
That gap was a bit more pronounced just a couple of years ago, but Flores’ splits seemed to flip over since the start of the 2018 season. After hitting .291/.309/.553 against left-handers in 2017 (.262/.306/.459 versus RHP), the 27-year-old slashed just .237/.284/.326 against lefties in 2018.
That drop off in productivity could be a result of MLB pitchers adapting to Flores approach. He crushes balls on the inside part of the plate and has trouble going low-and-outside to get pitches. It could also be a product of being diagnosed with early-onset arthritis in both knees in mid-September.
Flores was optimistic when he was diagnosed, telling Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, “Hopefully, it’s not something I have to deal with my whole career. I’m going to do everything I can to keep the pain away.”
His condition is by no means career-ending, but it could certainly be classified as potentially career-altering. Diagnosis aside, reports at the time stated that Flores was expected to be ready for Opening Day in 2019.
New Mets’ general manager Brodie Van Wagenen told the media earlier this month that Flores was “healthy”. A week later, Jon Heyman of FanCred Sports reported that although the Venezuelan “could be had” in a trade, he would “likely be tendered a contract” by the Mets if a deal couldn’t be struck.
Flores is entering his final arbitration-eligible season in 2019. After making $3.4 million in 2018, he could make double that this coming year.
Brodie Van Wagenen has already earmarked Flores for a non-starting role in 2019, referring to him as not “particularly versatile” and that “he’d be a predominantly first base option or power bat off the bench”, as told to Tim Britton of The Athletic.
With options like Derek Dietrich, Jed Lowrie, Cory Spangenberg, C.J. Cron, and Matt Adams available through free agency, who would cost less-or-equal to Flores and some of which would offer a lot more flexibility off of their bench, it leaves the Mets in a less-than-envious position.
The deadline for MLB teams to tender an arbitration-eligible player a contract is November 30. As much as Wilmer Flores is adored in Flushing, his time on Roosevelt Ave. could be coming to an end.