Mets OF Juan Lagares was the best defensive center fielder this season during the 85 games he played at that position, according to FanGraphs.com.
Unfortunately, as Logan Barer points out in a post to MetsMerized, Lagares doesn't qualify for a Rawling's Gold Glove because he only played 556.2 innings in center field this season, which is less than required for consideration...
Taylor is a lock to win the Glove Glove Award for center field, it seems.
That said, "Regardless of who wins, Lagares reclaimed his title of best center fielder in the National League - if not the MLB," Barer concluded in his post. "He might not have the hardware to signify it, but the metrics certainly prove it."
Lagares won the Gold Glove for center in 2014, after which he and the Mets agreed to four-year, $23 million contract. Unfortunately, he has spent most of that time jockeying between the DL, rehab assignments, and being a part-time player.
Lagares essentially took over playing center field full time in early-June, due mostly to injuries to Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto, followed by Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson being traded.
In those final 56 games, Lagares hit .261 with a .296 OBP, 17 extra base hits, 13 RBI and seven stolen bases, while striking out roughly 20 percent of the time and playing sensational defense.
Towards the end of this past season, Keith Hernandez told SNY's Mets Insider that, with his fielding, Juan Lagares only needs to hit .260 to be a viable, everyday center fielder.
Mar 8, 2016; Lagares (12) runs to third at Champion Stadium. Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
His season totals in 2017 project to roughly 2.5 WAR, which is down from where he was at his best in 2014, but along the lines of what he delivered in 2013. This season's level production puts him in line with this year's version of Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Odubel Herrera.
Lagares clearly feels the disconnect. He recently told the Daily News that he is not satisfied being a fourth outfielder, yet he hasn't been consistently healthy enough for the Mets to operate like he can be anything more than a part-time player.
"It's been so frustrating," Lagares told reporter Kristie Ackert "I am trying to make them see that I can play every day. I don't think I am a backup."
He isn't. But, he is. It's frustrating, and why he is currently surrounded by the following questions, the answers to which will likely dictate how Sandy Alderson retools his roster.
1) Is Lagares an everyday player? Yes, he 100 percent has the necessary talent to be an everyday center fielder, evident by everything written before this sentence. However...
2) Is he physically able to remain healthy and start 140 games? I don't know, especially given how aggressive he plays the position. So far, at least since 2014, he's been unable to keep himself from being injured. This doesn't mean he will always be on and off the DL. But at 28 years old and based on the last few years, it's hard to imagine he doesn't continue the trend.
3) If he's not an everyday guy, should he be on the team? This is not an easy answer. And, unfortunately, it only creates a bunch of follow-up questions, such as...
A) Who plays center field if it isn't Lagares? Brandon Nimmo? A free agent, like Lorenzo Cain? If Cain, how much money does he want and how does it restrict the Mets from spending on something else? If not a free agent is it someone acquired by trade? What do they cost? If not free agent or trade, is it Michael Conforto, who might not be back until late spring, early summer? If Conforto is in center, do the Mets sign or trade to get a right fielder?
Aug 27, 2017; Lagares against the Nationals at Nationals Park. Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
B) In terms of money and roster space, can the Mets afford a terrific part time player? The fact, is, money aside, his potential on the roster can cause issues for the manager, teammates, and Lagares, because they all know he's too good to bench yet not productive or healthy enough to play.
C) If his presence does create a constant dilemma, does his 'potential' hold more value in trade than his reality provides on the bench?
D) if he is more valuable in trade, what is he worth considering other teams likely see him the same was as the Mets?
Are you tired? I know I am, especially since the younger, less expensive Nimmo is surrounded by most of the same questions.
The point is, Alderson's roster has a lot of holes, only some of which can be solved by money. He's no longer in a position to carry multiple fourth outfielders when he also isn't certain what to expect from his pitching staff, rookie infielders, Conforto's shoulder surgery, and Cespedes's legs.
The decision can't be delayed any longer. Alderson has to answer the above questions, make a plan, roll the dice, and go with it...
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is the host of SNY's MetsBlog Q&ACast and the lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!