Last season, for the eighth time in nine years, the Mets did not have a Gold Glove Award winner, nor did they have even a finalist at any of the nine positions.
In a talk with reporters toward the end of last season, GM Sandy Alderson admitted that he needs to make defense a bigger priority than it has been for his front office...
"When your pitchers aren't striking everybody out, as we've had the benefit of in the past, the defense becomes a little more important," Alderson explained. "If we're going to have pitching that puts the ball in play, the defense is going to have to be more of a priority."
Alderson's Mets were charged with 92 errors and were minus-73 in Defensive Runs Saved last season, which put them in last place by nearly 20 percent.
In late August, during a game against the Marlins, Yoenis Cespedes stopped short on a fly ball, Wilmer Flores let two balls deflect off his glove, rookie Amed Rosario was surprised by Dee Gordon's speed, and catcher Travis d'Arnaud passed up a double play off a bad bunt and an easy out at first base, all of which resulted in runs en route to a loss. It was one game, but it stood out enough for me to remember it when writing this post because it perfectly captured the season's missed moments and poor fielding.
Jacob deGrom, who was the game's starting pitcher, stood visually irritated on the mound. It was not the first time last season that deGrom shook his head or rolled his eyes at one of his infielders. This is bad. It's one thing to have guys that aren't contending for Gold Gloves, it's another to have them embarrassing your ace (and wrecking his season stats and a potential win) in front of 40,000 people.
Thankfully, the combination of a second-season Rosario and, frankly, anyone at third base should be better than what Alderson got from the left side of the infield in 2017. This, plus a new manager (Mickey Callaway) and new infield coach (Ruben Amaro), both of whom are more open to using evidence-based suggestions from the front office, should result in better infield positioning and better results next season (regardless of who is wearing gloves and cleats). However, it would further help to have the best possible fielders at second and third base, which has probably been being debated all winter in the front office at Citi Field.
The Mets can have Todd Frazier today if they give him a multi-year deal. However, by putting Frazier at third base, Asdrubal Cabrera will be forced to play second base, where he was a significantly worse fielder than he was last season at third. On the other hand, if the Mets acquire a second baseman (such as signing Neil Walker or Eduardo Nunez or trading for Josh Harrison or Cesar Hernandez) it would mean Cabrera could stick at third, where he's a better fielder than at second.
"I'm hopeful that the defense will be improved, but it's always a balance," Alderson stated four months ago. "How good is the team on a net-net basis? That's the balance we have to strive for year-to-year."
Alderson believed he would have a rotation for power arms striking most hitters out and not needing people to field the ball because it would rarely be in play. Of course, injuries and a lack of realized potential derailed his vision. Instead, as hitters around the league started changing their swings to get more lift and power, Alderson's power arms got injured or simply failed to sit batters down, giving up balls in play that were misplayed by his obviously weak defense.
These days, for the Mets, it makes it all the more important to get outs when the ball is actually in play. As a result, if Alderson is able to get a better hitter than Cabrera for third base (such as Frazier, or ideally Mike Moustakas), I'd actually prefer Cabrera be on the bench and Callaway start Triple-A middle infielder Luis Guillorme, who is the best defensive second base I've ever seen in person.
Guillorme, Rosario at shortstop and Juan Lagares in center would be one of -- if not the best -- fielding up the middle trios in baseball. I see this group, plus the better bat at third, as being a better, more consistent team than the path Alderson is currently on...
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. He recently left his position as Executive Editor and Dir. of Digital Content for SNY.TV to help sports brands build their own digital content businesses...