Citing potential payroll flexibility, the Mets may be considering one of the top defensive center fielders
Earlier this off-season, Sandy Alderson said that Juan Lagares “definitely fits into the team’s 2018 plans.” How things have changed. Now the Mets are fielding offers for the 28-year old center fielder according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.
Lagares has two years left on his contract plus a club option for 2020. He still comes at a fairly affordable price tag of $6.5 million next year. That number rises to $9 million in 2019. His option comes at a price tag of $9.5 million with a $500,000 buyout.
In some aspects, it’s been frustrating to see Lagares hampered by injuries and his development stunted offensively. Since 2014, Lagares has hit .250 and has never posted an offensive WAR higher than 0.4. The more concerning number involves injuries. Over the last two seasons, he’s played in just 173 games. It seemed a few short years ago like Lagares could develop into an integral role at the top of the lineup, but that hasn’t materialized.
The drawbacks to executing a trade for Lagares would be simple though. You’re taking a defensive ace out of the equation. Lagares has some of the best range of any center fielder. Even in abbreviated action, Lagares had 15 defensive runs saved in center last season. It seems counterproductive to deal away your best overall defender.
Michael Conforto did handle center admirably when asked, but there are questions if he’ll even start the season healthy. With that looming, the next option on the roster is Brandon Nimmo who has very limited experience in center.
The idea of creating payroll flexibility with this move is ridiculous as well. Then again, what else would we expect? If we take this at face value, it seems the Mets are selective and narrow in their search for needs. Meanwhile, trading away Lagares, while an average bat statistically when healthy, is an elite glove. And would there be any move to replace that? I’d venture to guess no.
There are a lot of ifs surrounding Lagares who is working on revamping his swing. The main one is obviously if he can stay healthy, which he hasn’t been able to do lately. On the flip side, we’re talking about an organization that seems to be dragging their feet and an organization that won’t fill the void left defensively if Lagares is shipped off.
After all, even with the average at best offense, Lagares is among the top players at his position in the field. And that can’t be understated either.