The Mets have two veteran infielders who are having good second halves -- Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera. With the way the roster is currently constructed, one of them will probably find himself with the team next year, possibly even with a starting role. Which one has the better case?
Cabrera followed up a stellar 2016 campaign as the Mets' starting shortstop with a rough first half of 2017. At the All-Star break, he had just a .736 OPS, and his defense was terrible. Moreover, he had made headlines by asking to be traded after the team asked him to move off shortstop. At the time, it seemed highly unlikely he would remain a Met much longer, despite a team option that would allow him to return in 2018 for just $6.5 million.
However, Cabrera has put up excellent numbers since that point, slashing .308/.367/.472 over 241 plate appearances. This has pulled his overall season line up to about his career average, and his .349 OBP would be his best since 2009.
Though his defense at shortstop has been quite poor -- the worst of his career -- the metrics suggest he can be just moderately below average at second base and possibly at third, though he has very limited experience there and it shows.
Reyes didn't just have a bad first half, he had one of the worst first halves of any player this year. At the end of June, he still had a sub-.200 batting average and an OPS barely above .600. As a 34-year-old pending free agent, a performance like this raised serious questions about whether his time in the majors was nearing an end.
Since the All-Star break, though, Reyes has made significant strides, and a .278/.356/.462 line has pulled his season OPS to .715, only modestly below average. The improvement to his walk rate is particularly notable and if it holds up, it would be his highest since 2009.
Like Cabrera, Reyes hasn't been a good shortstop in a long time and his small sample at third base doesn't grade out much better. He appears serviceable at second base, albeit also in a limited body of work.
Cabrera has the clear edge on offense, both in 2017 and for the last few years overall. Both have benefited from the league-wide power boost and have improved their patience as well, but Cabrera makes better contact. Reyes's speed is a plus on a largely slow-footed team, though how long that will last at his age is a fair concern.
On defense, Reyes is marginally better, though both are not great overall. And their time at shortstop should be minimized at all costs. They both grade out quite badly at third base, bad enough that they would be a real liability there. They are almost as poor at third as at shortstop, and worse than at second. It's hard to imagine either bringing enough on offense to justify the runs allowed on the field, though Cabrera's bat might come close if he matches his 2016-17 numbers. Still, both would be near replacement and well below average overall.
Reyes will likely command a lower salary as his bat, despite a late-season surge, still grades out below the level expected of a starter, and teams will almost certainly be approaching him as a bench player. If the Mets are looking to keep one of these two players in a backup role, Reyes will likely be the better value. However, if they decide to forego the inflated infielder market and fill a starting role in-house, the relatively higher price tag on Cabrera is a worthwhile investment for the better and more consistent hitter.
Maggie Wiggin (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Archive Posts) has been a Mets fan since birth and a MetsBlog contributor since 2013. She loves throwing hard and hitting hard and hates the DH. When baseball is out of season, she fills her days with data analysis and evaluation and patiently waits for Spring