This winter’s free agent class is thick on shortstops. Carlos Correa. Trevor Story. Corey Seager. And even Javier Baez all qualify as shortstops on the list of superstar free agents. Baez may market himself as a second baseman to some teams this winter because it opens up a few more doors. It’s the only way he’d return to the New York Mets next year because they reeled in their big guy for the position already, Francisco Lindor.
Still, this hasn’t stopped some Mets fans from dreaming of scenarios where longtime shortstops slide over to third base. After several years of uncertainty at the hot corner, it’s tough to blame them.
But as potent as it makes the offense, it creates some new doubts. Just because someone can play shortstop well doesn’t automatically make them next year’s Gold Glove winner at third base. The positions are played differently. The priority for the Mets shouldn’t be to reinvent the infield by stockpiling star shortstops. They need to get the best players they can for the positions they need.
The Mets don’t need another year of guys playing out of position as capable as they may seem
Something bothering every Mets fan in recent years has been how out-of-position a majority of players on the roster have been. Jeff McNeil has routinely bounced around the field. Dominic Smith has seen far more action in left field than anyone else. J.D. Davis never really caught on at any one spot.
Improved defense helped make the Mets a more formidable foe in 2021. Improvements by Brandon Nimmo in center field as well as others at a position they were once deemed incapable of defending well made this aspect of the game more of a strength than weakness.
After the disappointment of this most recent season, why turn back the clock and create more potential messes?
Professional sports franchises have a tendency to sometimes get too caught up in thinking outside of the box instead of just making obvious moves. Signing a star shortstop to a massive deal this winter and placing him at third base feels shortsighted. What then happens to third base prospects Brett Baty and Mark Vientos? What happens when two months into the season we realize they aren’t meant to play third base?
One similarity I fully expect to mimic last winter is how “in” the Mets are with the top free agents. There wasn’t an All-Star on the open market last offseason that wasn’t in some way linked to the Mets in a rumor. Even ill-fitting players should see their names even hinted at yet again in the hot stove season.
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As we experienced during the first winter under Steve Cohen, many of those free agents won’t end up calling Citi Field home. Just having the option to sign these guys is a luxury. Realistically, the focus needs to be less on making as many big splashes as it can and instead aim their goals toward getting the right fit.