It was so much fun watching Juan Lagares play center field in 2014.
He brought home the Gold Glove award while putting on an absolute clinic on how to patrol the outfield. Lagares put up nearly 9 WAR in 2013 and 2014, while only playing in 237 games.
Unfortunately, since then, his career has been derailed by injuries. As a result, we’ve essentially been in Matt Den Dekker and Kirk Nieuwenhuis territory ever since.
Lagares has been healthy this season, but he has been atrocious when on the field. His slash line of .175/.242/.252 has earned him an almost permanent home on the bench. His -1.5 WAR is downright unbelievable. Even his defensive metrics have taken a huge hit, so there’s really not much of an argument to keep him on the field at this point.
The center field situation is murky. The infield situation may make it even more difficult to navigate going forward.
Could the answer in center field have an internal solution?
There have been a lot of rumblings about Amed Rosario taking over center field. It’s not because he’s fast and athletic. It’s because he’s been absolutely dreadful at shortstop. And, hey. We sure do love having our players learn new positions at the major league level.
Could he be our future center fielder? Maybe. I just don’t see it. Most of his problems at shortstop seem to stem from his lack of baseball instincts. That’s not going to change just by standing in a different place in the field.
Let’s explore this though, just for the sake of argument. Let’s assume this experiment begins next year. Brandon Nimmo and Jed Lowrie are healthy and ready to play for the purposes of this discussion. Where does Jeff McNeil play?
In this hypothetical scenario, Robinson Canó is still the everyday second baseman. Also, to make things easier we are pretending that Yoenis Céspedes doesn’t exist. (We might not have to pretend.) So, if Jed Lowrie and Brandon Nimmo return with Amed Rosario playing center field, where does Jeff McNeil play? Also, um, who is the shortstop? For this experiment I had Lowrie penciled in at third base. Please don’t suggest Lowrie is the shortstop.
Basically, what I’m saying is this. The current roster construction is abysmal. Why complicate matters for a player who we aren’t even sure can handle the position?
It’s easy to see him struggle at shortstop and suggest a position change. I just don’t think that the people suggesting that have fully considered all the ramifications. Also, does he hit enough to play center field for us?
But, fine. Let’s get nuts. Play Rosario in center. I mean, tomorrow. Right after the All-Star break. Let’s not go into 2020 with yet another question mark.
Yoenis Céspedes spent a little time in center in 2015. Lately, Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo have had the “8” next to their names on the scorecard. Sure, you’ll take that over Alejandro de Aza, but it’s not ideal. For his career, Conforto is at -12 DRS. Nimmo is at -6. To put that in perspective, Lorenzo Cain posted 20 DRS last year in Milwaukee and is at 10 DRS this season.
The Mets reunited with Carlos Gomez this offseason. It was a fun week or so that had Met fans yelling “Ye, ye, ye,” but he has been designated for assignment. Keon Broxton was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers this offseason, but now plays for the Baltimore Orioles. I say all that to say this. The Mets have one true center fielder on the roster who they can’t even justify playing right now.
I would love Michael Conforto to be the everyday left fielder. (I’d also like him to hit third EVERY day, but that’s another discussion.) Honestly? Would it be the worst thing to stick him in center field *SHORT TERM*? No. It’s not ideal, but things with this team rarely are.
Nimmo, Conforto and McNeil. That’s an outfield where everyone could potentially have an OPS of 850+. Again, we are assuming that Céspedes is deceased.
Something to consider though.
Conforto in 2019:
As Center Fielder: 676 OPS (46 PA)
As Right Fielder: 853 OPS (296 PA)
Small sample size. But if you want to tell me that Conforto would thrive without bouncing him around the lineup and field, trust me… I would not argue.
What is the answer, then? It’s not in our farm system, that’s for sure. Not anytime soon, anyway.
There are a few contending teams out there who could use some pitching help as we approach the trade deadline. Do any of these teams have a center fielder they can give us? Doesn’t look like it to me. Manuel Margot? Ugh. Maybe Kyle Tucker can be pried from Houston and can stick at center field for a while?
Free agency? No help there either. It will be two years before someone who can even play center field will become available. (George Springer, Jackie Bradley Jr. and they will both be 31 when they hit the market for what it’s worth.)
Can I plead the fifth? Seriously, this is tough.
Gun to my head, I guess you put Nimmo or Conforto in center. I’m open to giving Rosario an audition, but only if you start tomorrow.
Dom Smith. Zack Wheeler, even Noah Syndergaard. We have some attractive pieces. Do we trust Brodie to get creative? 😳
Well, boys and girls… Looks like we need a center fielder.
We may need a shortstop too.