An improved defense up the middle can pay off big for the New York Mets in 2020. This winter, they could look to upgrade at all four spots.
As we progress through the offseason and look to build the 2020 roster, one major area of concern for the New York Mets is their defense up the middle. It is not a coincidence that all of the teams that either won their division, made the playoffs, or won the World Series were strong defensively at catcher, second base, shortstop and center field.
These examples include:
- Washington Nationals: C – Yan Gomes, 2B – Brian Dozier, SS – Trea Turner, CF – Victor Robles
- Houston Astros: C – Robinson Chirinos, 2B – Jose Altuve, SS – Carlos Correa, CF – Jake Marisnick
- Atlanta Braves: C – Tyler Flowers, 2B – Ozzie Albies, SS – Dansby Swanson, CF – Ronald Acuna Jr.
- St. Louis Cardinals: C – Yadier Molina, 2B – Kolten Wong, SS – Paul DeJong, CF – Harrison Bader
All of these players mentioned are above average or outstanding defensive players, but some are not particularly strong hitters. Players including Marisnick, Swanson, and Bader are valued more for their defense than offense. Historically most winning teams look to corner positions (1B, 3B, LF, RF) to provide their offense and a majority of their run production.
And since most winning teams also have solid pitching, it makes too much sense to compliment your solid pitching with great up the middle defense. You can win with a subpar defensive first baseman or left fielder but not at the shortstop position.
So when we look at who the Mets employed up the middle in 2019:
It is not hard to see part of the reason why they fell short of making the playoffs and competing for a championship (along with their horrible bullpen). I feel it extremely important to provide our solid starting pitching staff with a strong overall defense to keep them happy and want them to remain with the organization long term.
So here is who I have identified the Mets should go after or what they should do in order to improve their up the middle defense.
Sign an above-average defensive catcher to split time with Ramos, and/or look to trade Ramos since he is coming off a decent offensive year. But if we do retain Ramos, then signing someone like Martin Maldonaldo to platoon with Ramos, would make much sense. I was impressed with Tomas Nido defensively but he may be one of those AAAA type players with his .547 OPS.
That being said, at the catcher position, I don’t mind giving up offense for defense and a platoon of Maldonaldo / Nido would be a huge defensive upgrade over Ramos. Some people will look to Ramos offensive production as a reason to keep him, and yes he did hit .288, but it was a mostly empty .288 with many rally-killing double play ground balls (16 GDPs).
He doesn’t help his cause by his usual jog down the first baseline. I still don’t understand why players making so much money can’t hustle every time when running the bases.
Make Jeff McNeil the everyday second baseman and look to trade Robinson Cano to an American League team where he can DH. Also, I don’t think I can watch Cano jog to first base on ground balls anymore as we already have Ramos who specializes in that.
Compare that with McNeil’s infectious hustle to go along with his .988 career fielding percentage at second base, which is exactly what we need instead.
Sign Didi Gregorius to be the everyday shortstop. Yes, he is coming off a down year in 2019 due to injury, but if you look at what he has done in his career, he is exactly what is needed at shortstop and in the middle of our lineup. He is also an extremely clutch hitter as we saw in the 2019 American League playoffs.
Being related to many Yankee fans, I do watch most Yankee games and have always been impressed with Gregorius’ plus arm, above-average range and career .979 fielding percentage compared to Rosario’s inability to backhand balls to his right and his .968 career fielding percentage.
Trade for Jackie Bradley Jr. to man center field on most days in 2020. Yes, he is coming off a bad offensive year, but is one of the best defensive center fielders in the game and can live with his mediocre offense batting in the seventh or eighth spot in the lineup.
It has been a while since we have had an outfielder than can not only go and get it but also throw runners out on the base paths. His 10 outfield assists in 2019 are the most any Mets outfielder has had since 2013 when Lagares had 13 assists.
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Hopefully, the Mets front office doesn’t let its pitching staff down like it did in 2019.