The inevitable loss of Daniel Murphy plus the uncertainty of whether some combination of Wilmer Flores, Ruben Tejada, and Dilson Herrera can get the job done puts the New York Mets in the market for middle infield help.
Murphy will surely receive a qualifying offer and turn it down for a multi-year deal on the open market after hitting a career high 14 home runs and seven more in the playoffs. The infielder also cut his strikeouts down from 86 to 38 while being the toughest guy in MLB to strikeout, doing so once every 13.13 at bats in 2015.
Flores had a good second half (.739 OPS) after struggling in the first (.682), and looked better in the field during the postseason, but is that an extremely small sample size. Tejada was also better with the bat after the All-Star break (.724 OPS vs .654 in first half), but was shockingly bad defensively overall with a -1.5 dWAR according to Baseball Reference.
Most of the talk however has been weather or not Mets second base prospect Herrera is ready to take over for Murphy on an every game basis. The 21-year-old Herrera has limited experience in the big leagues, batting .215/.308/.383 in 169 plate appearances. He does have some pop for a smaller guy, as evidenced by his six MLB home runs. Herrera’s numbers don’t look as bad considering he was youngest National League player in 2014 and fourth-youngest this past season.
Herrera is already a better defensive player than Murphy with more range and the ability to turn a good double play. He showed some nerves in his first MLB action in 2014 (three errors in 17 games), but looked more comfortable this year.
Since Sandy Alderson swapped Marlon Byrd and John Buck for Vic Black and Herrera in August of 2013, all he has done is hit in the Mets minor league system. Herrera has never hit below .300 in any of his Mets stops and broke out in 2014 slashing .340/.406/.540 with ten homers and nine stolen bases for the AA Binghamton Mets which earned him a call-up. He continued his strong year at the plate this season hitting .327/.382/.511 with eleven home runs and thirteen steals in the minors.
The Mets also have some other depth in the minors with SS/2B Matt Reynolds who replaced Tejada on the NLDS roster after he was injured. Reynolds had a down year in the Pacific Coast League (.267/.319/.402) after breaking out with a great 2014 (.343/.405/.454) over two levels. The former second-round pick has a good line drive stroke but lacks the one great tool that could make him a starter and seems destined for a utility role.
Gavin Cecchini the Mets #4 prospect according to MLB Pipeline had a great offensive year in AA for Binghamton hitting .317/.377/.442 while playing shortstop everyday. He was the Eastern League Rookie of the Year and participated in the All-Star game. He will certainly start the 2016 campaign in AAA with the Las Vegas 51’s and could be breathing down the neck of whoever starts at SS for the Mets with a strong start.
As you can see the Mets and Alderson have plenty of options that they can turn to in-house if that is the route they decide to go. If Herrera struggles you can also shift Flores over to second base where he played 37 times this year and is better suited for anyway. That would leave Tejada at shortstop where he was worth one win this year according to FanGraphs ahead of guys like Jose Reyes, Brad Miller, Starlin Castro and J.J. Hardy. The Mets may very well look to the free-agent market for middle infield depth, but it is clear that the team has some very viable options already on the roster.