Time for Mets to Wright Off David
Not surprisingly, it was announced that David Wright may or may not be able to return sometime soon.
Translation: it’s time for the Mets to move on, at least for 2015.
We can pretend that the indefinite, week-to-week, “I’ll be back sooner rather than later” explanation is legitimate. Or we can accept the reality: an injury that can’t be corrected by surgery because the athlete is “too young” is serious enough to write off that athlete’s season — and tempers expectations for that athlete’s career in general.
That’s not to say David Wright won’t return 100% healthy one day — it’s just that, it makes no sense at all to believe that “some day” will happen in 2015. It’s also not saying that David Wright won’t return before the end of this season. But consider this: even if Wright was cleared for baseball activities tomorrow (which he won’t), the severity of his condition combined with his time away from the field means he’s AT MINIMUM six weeks to two months away from being an everyday MLBer. So we’re looking at late July / early August — IF Wright makes a miraculous overnight recovery.
The reality is that Wright almost certainly will take another two to three weeks to get back to doing everyday normal people things — and that’s a far cry from “baseball activities.” With a huge amount of luck, Wright MIGHT get back into an MLB game in late September. I wouldn’t count on it.
Meantime, Ruben Tejada — the player with the highest OPS in the Mets lineup on Monday night — is the starting third baseman. I’m not sure which of those two facts is more frightening. We know the Tejada story, and we’re pretty sure this is a rerun. After being bound to the bench for a lengthy time, Tejada is given an opportunity, and the combination of Tejada’s short-lived adrenaline boost with opposing pitchers serve up meatballs, the might’ve-been-member-of-Menudo looks like a legitimate answer — for about a week or two. And then, once Tejada has settled in and won a job, the motivation drops, scouting reports remind hurlers they need to treat Tejada as slightly better than a good-hitting pitcher, Tejada starts chasing pitches out of the zone, and yesterday’s answer becomes tomorrow’s question. Even if Tejada could replicate what he did offensively in 2011 and the first half of 2012, it’s not enough bat at the third base position for the long haul. So what are the Mets to do?
The knee-jerk response is to pretend that Wright may return at some point in 2015, and therefore find a versatile player who can fill in at 3B for the time being, but turn into a “super sub” upon Wright’s return. Names like Ben Zobrist and Martin Prado immediately come to mind. But guess what? Neither of those players, or players of that ilk, can be had in return for a package of Eric Campbell and Darin Gorski — no matter how badly Mets fans would like to believe such a deal is possible. And no, you can’t sweeten the pot with Matthew Bowman and/or Tyler Pill. The conversation will start with Steven Matz and work down from there (and not far). So stop dreaming — acquiring a legit player from the outside ain’t happenin’.
But there IS an absolutely perfect fit for the “fill in at 3B now, become super sub later” role — and it won’t cost the Mets anyone in a trade. The fit is Daniel Murphy. Murphy moves to third, Wilmer Flores shifts to second, and Tejada slots in at shortstop while he’s hot — and when he cools down, the fans clamoring for the shiny new Matt Reynolds will get their wish (shiny happy people, how is Kevin Plawecki doing? getting dull for you yet?).
But that won’t happen. The Mets won’t move Flores away from shortstop, even if it’s the best thing for the team. The public story is that Flores is young, sensitive, and fragile, and moving him away from short now, while he’s gaining confidence in himself, would be too devastating for him to handle. Ha! The REAL story is that Sandy Alderson and the fantasy front office is too hardheaded to admit they made a mistake in placing a non-shortstop into the shortstop position. They will point to mountains of data that “prove” that Flores’ defensive deficiencies are outweighed by his offensive contributions, and there are enough hopeful sheep among the fanbase to support the decision (many of which, I’m sure, can’t wait to tell me so in the comments below this post). Further, the front office believes that presenting Flores as a shortstop makes him far more valuable in trade talks. The concept is not new — it precisely follows the path this same front office took with the aforementioned Murphy, who everyone outside of Flushing knows is not an everyday MLB second baseman. (Oh, yes, Murphy supporters, please, also join in the comments. It’s more fun for me than a bowl of ice cream topped with whipped cream and chocolate syrup. And your arguments always look better when Murphy’s in the middle of a hot streak, as he is now.)
For those who have not rushed to the comments and reading on, let’s consider reality. Despite the fact it makes most sense to play Murphy at third, Tejada at short, and Flores at second (or switch Flores and Murphy), what most likely will happen is Murphy will move to 3B and Tejada to second. Or at least, it should, because at least then the up-the-middle defense is improved, even if Murphy’s botches and brain freezes lower performance at the hot corner. Less baseballs are hit toward third base, so problems there are slightly more tolerated.
Ideally, Tejada stays hot just long enough to segue into the return of Dilson Herrera. Then Herrera can take over 2B and Tejada can platoon with Murphy at 3B — even if it’s as a late-inning defensive replacement. And oh by the way, the Mets have another option for 3B by the name of Michael Cuddyer. I’m not sure how much of an upgrade he’d be over Murphy defensively (if any), but he’s been in that position 174 times in his big-league career.
There’s one more thing to consider: the Mets are at the top of the NL East right now without David Wright. Despite all the talk of losing Wright and Travis d’Arnaud, the division is such a crap-show that the Mets are still neck-and-neck with the Nationals, with the Braves much further behind than the standings suggest. And they did that with Wright appearing in only 8 of their 53 games. In fact, the Mets didn’t reach first place until AFTER Wright went on the disabled list. So perhaps all this talk of how to replace Wright is for naught.
And that’s really the bottom line, isn’t it? Without Wright, and regardless of where the Mets place the defensively dysfunctional Murphy and Flores, they’re still in the fight for first. What else matters in the goal of ticket sales and “meaningful games in September”? Don’t expect an acquisition or a big trade in light of David Wright’s terrible news. As long as the Mets stay close enough — and they will, considering the ineptitude of the teams below them — they’ll keep the interest of the sheep and sell tickets. Oh, make a profit, as every business should. Between not adding salary to replace Wright, cashing in on the insurance policy they have on Wright’s contract, and remaining interesting enough to generate revenues through September, the Mets may make their first profit since moving into The Field At Shea Bridge. Which will then be used to sign a big-name free-agent in the winter, right?
Ah, that’s for another day. For now, let me know what you think the Mets will do — if anything — in reaction to the news that David Wright will be out indefinitely.