Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Mets infielder Jed Lowrie, who was recently diagnosed with a capsule sprain in his left knee, said Saturday that there's "no real timetable" for his return -- something that could have a ripple effect as the Mets put their roster together for Opening Day.
When asked whether he would be ready for Opening Day (March 28 against the Nationals), Lowrie was non committal, reiterating that there's no timetable and that he wants to make sure his injury doesn't linger.
The status of Lowrie might have a direct impact on Pete Alonso's chances of making the Opening Day roster, but that's not where the potential impact ends. Here are some scenarios that could happen if Lowrie misses Opening Day (and potentially beyond)...
Pete Alonso becoming the Mets' Opening Day first baseman
Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen has maintained all offseason that Alonso has a chance to force his way onto the Opening Day roster. Until Lowrie's injury, there didn't seem to be a spot for Alonso from the outset -- not unless the team planned to bench or trade Todd Frazier.
Now? There's a potential opening.
Robinson Cano (second base), Amed Rosario (shortstop), and Frazier are expected to play nearly every day. If Lowrie is out, though, it allows Frazier to shift from first base to third base, leaving a gaping hole at first.
If Lowrie is out, Van Wagenen's words about being serious regarding Alonso having a shot at making the team out of camp (and Mickey Callaway's words about the team taking the best 25 guys north) will be tested.
Alonso, who smoked a two-run homer on the first pitch he saw during Grapefruit League play, has appeared ready since late last season. And he appears like the best option for first base. But if the Mets want to secure an extra year of service time by keeping Alonso in the minors until mid-April (something that is the prudent move and something almost all teams would do), they can turn to other options to replace Lowrie, such as...
Jeff McNeil temporarily moving back to the infield
After playing primarily second base last season, and with very little outfield experience since becoming a professional, the plan for Jeff McNeil this season is to be primarily an outfielder -- something Van Wagenen and Callaway have repeated since Spring Training started.
McNeil's college coach told SNY in January that he doesn't think the outfield transition will be an issue, and the Mets' plan as of now is to have him play left field pretty much every day against right-handed pitching -- with Brandon Nimmo in center and Michael Conforto in left.
Depending on how long Lowrie is expected to be out and depending on how willing the Mets are to temporarily deviate from their plan to have McNeil play mostly outfield, he could be an option to replace Lowrie at third base when the season starts.
In the above scenario, McNeil would play third base while Frazier remains at first base. In turn, this would allow the Mets to use one of their defense-first center fielders (Juan Lagares or Keon Broxton) while flanking them with Conforto and Nimmo.
If the Mets choose to use McNeil in place of Lowrie at third base, they could still have McNeil play mostly outfield during Spring Training as he gets acclimated. Or they may choose to simply not disturb him, which might be the better option and could lead to...
J.D. Davis taking on a semi-regular infield role or Dominic Smith starting at first base
The 25-year-old Davis -- acquired via trade from the Astros for prospects earlier this offseason -- has experience at third base, first base, and left field, with most of his time in the majors coming at first.
At the moment, he's on the bubble for a 25-man roster spot -- potentially depending on whether the Mets carry backup infielder Adeiny Hechavarria instead.
If Lowrie is out, though, and the Mets aren't ready to turn to Alonso and don't want to mess with McNeil, the other logical option to fill in is Davis. The team could have Davis and Frazier switch between first base and third base, or opt to have both assume a more regular position while Lowrie is out.
While Van Wagenen is high on Davis and he does have some potential, he is a career .194/.260/.321 hitter in 66 big league games (181 plate appearances).
There's also Dominic Smith, who is a bit of a forgotten man. Smith, who hit .224/.255/.420 in 56 games for the Mets last season, is probably on the outside looking in right now when it comes to a roster spot. But the Lowrie situation could open the door for him.
However, if Alonso has a huge spring and the Mets opt for Smith at first base, the optics -- depending on how Smith performs during Spring Training -- could be quite bad.
There are also long-term ramifications to think of, especially if Lowrie is out for Opening Day and the Mets choose to go with Alonso. Things could get tricky when Lowrie returns if Alonso is playing well, since that would seemingly squeeze Frazier out. But that's a question for another day...