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Why the New York Mets still need a third baseman for 2021

Jul 13, 2019; Miami, FL, USA; A general view of a New York Mets hat and glove on the steps of the dugout in the game between the Miami Marlins and the New York Mets at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Mets lost out on Trevor Bauer, watching the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner head to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Many fans are disappointed, especially after the team whiffed on George Springer, but there’s still a great chance for this team to address an even bigger need before spring training begins.

While the Mets’ interest in various pitchers, including Bauer and Rich Hill, has been covered extensively, their position player situation has been understated. The Mets were rumored to be seeking a ‘true’ center-fielder, and Jackie Bradley Jr. may still be a target. But with the increasing chances that the DH will not be in play for the NL, the Mets may be better rolling with an offense-heavy outfield of Dominic Smith, Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo.

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The bigger issue remains at third base. While the Mets reportedly looked into Eugenio Suarez and even Nolan Arenado, there hasn’t been much buzz about their plans to upgrade at the position, despite it arguably being a bigger Achilles’ heel than center field.

Currently, the Mets depth chart has J.D. Davis as garnering most of the playing time. Davis is a legitimate offensive threat and a rare success story from the brief Brodie Van Wagenen years. Furthermore, his right-handed power nicely counters the three left-handed hitters in the outfield. With that said, he’s a terrible defender.

At the other end of the spectrum is Luis Guillorme, a gifted gloveman who’s had sporadic playing time over the past few years and projects as a punch-less singles hitter at best. Guillorme deserves a long look as a roving defensive supersub and is a fan favorite after catching a bat in mid-air in spring training of 2017. But he’d have to hit .300 to justify regular playing time, which is unlikely.

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The Mets also have Brandon Drury signed to a minor league contract. Drury was at one time a promising young player and had some success in an everyday role with the Diamondbacks in 2016. But after trades to the New York Yankees and later the Toronto Blue Jays, Drury flamed out and is now 28. He’s an interesting depth addition and has more upside as a bench option than a crusty veteran like Todd Frazier might, but he is also a player the Mets shouldn’t be counting on for more than depth.

So what should the Mets do? There are still some interesting free-agent options. Former Met Justin Turner is unsigned, and despite his age and health concerns, is still a solid player on both sides of the ball. Another possibility would be Marwin Gonzalez, whose bat has been up and down but provides some versatility and could fill in around the diamond should a better option arise.

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On the trade market, an underrated option remains Kyle Seager. Seager is owed $18.5 million in 2021, with a $15 million 2022 team option. The Mariners are rebuilding and Seager could be moved. His home park always masked some impressive hitting numbers and his defense, while in decline, would be an upgrade over Davis.

Seattle hasn’t spent much this winter and would probably love to offload some of Seager’s owed salary. Ty France, acquired from the San Diego Padres last year, figures to be their third baseman of the future. The Colorado Rockies ate Arenado’s entire 2020 salary of $35 million just for the chance to acquire some very marginal prospects. Although it’s a separate situation, the Mets’ ability to absorb most of Seager’s contract might offset any cost in prospects.

Road BARoad OBPRoad SLGHome OPS vs Road OPSCareer OPS+
Kyle Seager.262.323.471.739/.794114
Nolan Arenado.263.322.471.985/.793120
Some perspective on Kyle Seager vs Nolan Arenado. Source: baseball-reference.com.

The Mets are still in good shape even if they roll the dice with what they have going into the season, even marginal improvements could make a huge difference in what figures to be a close battle with the Atlanta Braves for first. The Nationals and Phillies have also both recently shored up their rosters. Now that the Cardinals woke up and are trying to win, the wild card may be competitive, too.

Getting an upgrade at third base, and maybe adding another rotation arm like Rich Hill, would not be as sexy a move as signing Bauer, but Mets fans should not be upset if that is how their final roster shakes out.