A day after losing Ben Zobrist to the Chicago Cubs, the Mets have rebounded with two infield acquisitions in Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker. Though this appears to be plan B, it certainly has strengthened the infield depth.
Entering the offseason, Daniel Murphy’s return was on the minds of all Mets’ fans. It would appear that Murphy has played his last game in a Mets uniform. The corner infield is determined before the inevitable stint on the DL for David Wright. The shortstop position was a revolving door last season. Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada played the majority of time at shortstop in 2015. Injuries to Flores and Tejada certainly played a part in the Mets off-season wish list entering the Winter Meetings.
The first significant deal of the offseason for the Mets was completed with the Pittsburgh Pirates, acquiring second baseman Neil Walker. Jon Niese was sent to Pittsburgh in return. The salaries are similar in years and price. After arbitration, the Mets will end up paying slightly more for Walker. Walker is on the last year of his contract, and gives the Mets flexibility on and off the field. Walker provides a better defensive second baseman that can hit from both sides of the plate. Despite Murphy’s streak of power in the playoffs, Walker will provide more consistency in that department. Walker has a chance to produce in New York with a contender on a big stage. Last season, Walker hit in the middle of the lineup and at the top of the lineup. Ideally, Walker will hit in the two spot this season. However, in the case of a Wright injury or Duda slump, Walker can fill in nicely at the three spot or even clean up.
In a surprise move, the Mets followed up the Walker trade with the signing of Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera received a two-year deal worth around $18.5 million. Many experts assumed the Tejada/Flores platoon would continue at shortstop in 2016. Cabrera does not provide a plus glove at shortstop, but he has proven he can handle the position defensively. After a slow start to the 2015 season, Cabrera turned things around after the all-star break. Cabrera finished with 15 HRs in Tampa Bay. The majority of Cabrera’s appearances with the Mets will surely be at shortstop, but he has the ability to fill in at third or second base. Also to note, Cabrera has had a brief stint in the NL East playing second base for the Washington Nationals.
As the dust settles, the Mets have improved the infield from last season. Defensively and offensively, the Mets are now extremely versatile and two men strong in each position. The middle infield will possess two switch-hitters that can play multiple positions. Behind Cabrera and Walker, Flores can play second base, shortstop, and third base. The main strength that Flores brings is his plus bat. Tejada provides similar position availability, but with a better glove than Flores. At first base, Duda is the clear starter. Michael Cuddyer will provide Duda some rest against left-handed pitchers. Behind the plate, Travis d’Arnaud took a big step forward this season with his bat. After the playoffs, many are concerned about d’Arnaud’s ability to throw out runners. This could lead to a position change with Kevin Plawecki providing depth at the catching position. Plawecki has shown brief flashes of power, but was able to handle a pitching staff as a rookie.
The outfield will be missing the spark of Yoenis Cespedes (presumably), but Michael Conforto will continue to grow as an above average major league hitter. Juan Lagares is looking to bounce back in 2016 offensively, but can always provide gold glove defense in center field. The Mets are searching hard for a left-handed platoon bat for Lagares in center field. Denard Span, Dexter Fowler, and Gerardo Parra seem to be the favorites for this spot. For the right deal, any one of these options would be a good fit. It is fair to say that the three players being pursued could even start over Lagares full time. Right field will be handled by the 2015 Mets MVP, Curtis Granderson. Granderson will continue to lead off and play Gold Glove-caliber defense. Terry Collins will have the versatility to field a strong lineup against a lefty or righty pitcher.