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Francisco Lindor is a Silver Slugger, and what are the Mets thinking about at third base?
David Stearns offered his assessment of his three in-house options at third base during the GM Meetings in Arizona this week
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What’s Up with the Mets? 🍎
Francisco Lindor won his third Silver Slugger Award in 2023 (first two: 2017, 2018)
The final day of the GM Meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona was canceled due to a stomach bug which was impacted a large percentage of those in attendance
How are the Mets tackling their third base problem? ✍️
Last and bottom five.
That is where Mets third basemen finished both offensively and defensively in MLB in 2023.
Granted, that does include all of those who played the position in 2023, and if you’d like a refresher on the list, I’ve got one right here for you:
The eight of them combined to produce a .604 OPS at the plate (last in MLB) and -10 defensive runs saved (DRS) at third base in 2023 (25th in MLB). Most of them are gone, another is, as Stearns put it, an offense-first player (Vientos) who is probably third or fourth in line among those on this list who are still here. The other is a utility infielder and not an everyday player (Guillorme).
It’s amazing - outside of David Wright and Howard Johnson, this position has been musical chairs since forever with this franchise. Doesn’t matter who owns them, doesn’t matter who runs them, doesn’t matter who manages them.
At any rate, it would sure seem as though - as of this date anyway - a competition between Mauricio and Baty might be among the storylines at spring training three months from now. Although Mets president of baseball operations seemed dissatisfied with their performance at the position when he discussed the situation at the GM Meetings this past week.
“If we go with some of those younger guys, particularly at third base, we are going to have to challenge them to improve [defensively],” Stearns said, according to the New York Post. “We weren’t good enough there defensively. We’re talking about Brett Baty and Ronny Mauricio: I think they have the ability and the physical tools to be a little bit better than they showed at the major league level last year, so that’s a great opportunity for them to prove that.”
Stearns said Mauricio will play third base during winter ball in what will be an abbreviated stint as the Mets look to get him reps while finding time for him to rest and prepare for the 2024 season.
But getting back to that quote for a moment…
That’s a pretty pointed remark about those two players, and it does nothing to offer certainty that there will even be an opportunity for a competition at third base this coming spring.
Leaving Mauricio out of the equation for a moment, it’s not surprising he offered this assessment on Baty specifically. Baty is a very concerning player simply from an approach perspective. Recall - there was a story this past summer about Baty taking pitches off during at-bats, and it would seem his struggles offensively were taken out to the field with him instead of being left behind in the dugout, and all of that reflected rather poorly on him. I know the stresses of playing in New York, playing in New York as a top draft choice, and playing in the big leagues as a young kid isn’t easy for a lot of them. And believe me - I sympathize and understand these players go through a lot of mental duress we aren’t even aware of.
But in the end, its going to come down to performance for him and part of me feels like time is going to start to run short on Baty, if it hasn’t already based on Stearns’ comment about him.
Back to Mauricio, his future may not be at third base at all. We’ve been saying for a long time he’s a prospect with a ceiling over his head at every position. I feel like there’s more of a stigma around Mauricio because of his size, but there are plenty of bigger-sized middle infielders around the game who, while they might not be gold glovers, are certainly competent at their respective positions. Maybe he can be competent at second base, maybe his future is in left field. Either way, he’s always been one of their most exciting prospects in this era and he certainly showed small glimpses of his potential in September.
Now, about third base.
It sure sounds like Stearns could consider the external markets for a solution, doesn’t it?
If so, the list isn’t great this winter among free agents. The list includes Escobar, Gil Urshela, Evan Longoria, and now Justin Turner who just opted out of his deal with Boston. Would Turner be interested in a short-term homecoming? I do think his influence and leadership abilities at a minimum could provide a ton of value to this team right now, not to mention the fact that he’s still a fine hitter.
There’s also the trade route, which has any number of obvious and unobvious permutations to it. But the Mets have been very resistant to using their prospect currency, and in listening to Steve Cohen in recent months, it doesn’t sound like that position is changing anytime soon, either.
In short, we’ve talked a lot about how much work the Mets have to do with their pitching staff, but it’s also important to consider this, which was arguably their biggest hole behind their pitchers in 2023 and addressing a major run prevention issue in both the short and long-term.
Hot Stove 🔥
The Padres interviewed former Angels manager Phil Nevin for their managerial opening (Athletic)
Zack Greinke hasn’t yet decided whether he will retire or not (MLB Network)
The Diamondbacks, Reds and Angels have shown early interest in Jeimer Candelario (New York Post)
Among the many outfielders the Yankees are thinking about is Kevin Kiermaier (Athletic)