The Mets Should Build the 2014 Outfield Around Juan Lagares’ Gold Glove Talents

Juan+Lagares+Pittsburgh+Pirates+v+New+York+J5tFF-ym9uSlMike:

Okay, I’ve seen enough. What we are seeing with Lagares, this was what I was hoping for with den Dekker. Get a guy with a glove so good for centerfield that anything he hits is a bonus. I’m ready to take centerfield off of the shopping list.

Jimmy:

I had the same thought as I watched the game in Minnesota. Folks are comparing him to Andruw Jones, plus praising his seriousness and his work ethic. He’s shown impressive dedication and improvement. And even if the offense disappoints, the glove is enough.

Mike:

What is interesting about Lagares’s defensive play is that it’s so outstanding that there is no debate. Fans like me, who are not yet comfortable with defensive metrics, love what we see. But people who do serious statistical analysis are impressed with Juan too. On SNY the other day, Gary Cohen mentioned that Mark Simon from ESPN credits Lagares with 20 runs saved. His UZR rating is 13.3, third among centerfielders with a minimum of 200 innings played. I just keep hoping Sandy Alderson, who has been stuck on early 1990’s metrics like they are a bad old vinyl record, takes a course on defensive metrics.

Because, as Juan has shown, defense matters.

Jimmy:

flip the switchIt’s uncanny how the conversation has completely shifted from the spring. We were looking at Lucas Duda in LF and Cowgill in CF; Sandy was busy talking about the link between home runs and wins. Meanwhile some of us in the blogosphere were asking, “What about defense?” Now it’s a complete turnaround. I’m glad for it, but the shift away from Duda happened because of Ike’s failures and then Duda’s injury. Lagares was pining away on the bench for weeks; Terry was disinclined to give him the time of day. We went with Ankiel, wasted more time with Kirkkkkk. Dithered around. Suddenly the light bulb has gone on, as if somebody flipped the switch by accident.

Mike:

Another thing to consider, and yes I’m going to bang this drum again, but den Dekker can really go get it too. As Lagares is showing us every day, there is big value in that. He should be up in September and playing, we should give den Dekker a whirl in September. He is under team control for years, and we need to see if he can help us. As you once sagely mentioned in regard to Eric Young, the best role players have one standout skill. Den Dekker has that with his glove, and he seems like the perfect 4th outfielder for us if we go with Lagares. He bats lefty too.

Jimmy:

Yes, Matt den Dekker should be in the mix, as they say, and his glove could be an asset. Last I looked, he’s under .200 against LHP in AAA and that’s a real liability, IMO. Maybe he suddenly transcends himself at the plate, but that’s not a plan with which I can open 2014. I don’t share your fascination with the guy. This Mets Andrew Brown walk-offteam can only improve in so many ways: 1B, SS, and/or LF/RF. Resigning Byrd to a one-year deal should be seriously considered. But the main point for today: CF is set with Lagares. It should be noted that Andrew Brown has mashed this season, in limited opportunities, and certainly gives the team a right-handed bat on the bench. Maybe even more than that if he ever gets a shot. I was wondering today if Michael Morse, another late bloomer, might be a possible comp for Brown. In very limited play, Brown has hit .274/.322/.464. In Vegas — a crazy environment, granted — he posted .346/.432/.660, which was not that different from his numbers in 2012 (larger sample size).

Mike:

LongshotsBrown is in the right role, way in the back of the line. Again, he has a skill, power, but I don’t see him as more than a limited role guy. But he can be on the 25 man, I’m fine with that. I would not re-sign Byrd. It’s been a great run all year with Marlon but he will get a raise. And I still don’t understand how he did this once. When I go to the track and hit on a longshot I don’t double down when the odds drop in his next race. I count my money and move on.

Jimmy:

I understand. We don’t know how much he’ll be seeking — but considering the weak buzz generated during the trade deadline, I can’t believe he’ll get more than $6 million for a one-year deal (which sounds like a lot). Would you sign him for $4 million? I can’t pretend to predict the marketplace. But at this point, I don’t see Marlon Byrd completely falling off a cliff, nor do I see anybody investing in more than a year on the guy. Replacing his production will not be easy, unless the Mets go big with Cargo or Stanton, which I just don’t see.

I start pondering the options and my head spins. There’s Corey Hart, back after missing a full season due to a knee injury? He’s a possibility. Spend big money on Choo? A nice player, but he’s hit 15 HRs in the bandbox in Cincinnati, and I doubt the playoff-bound Reds are eager to watch him walk away. Jacoby Ellsbury? Interesting gamble, but at what price? And which Ellsbury do you get? Right now, today, I’m at a loss — while hoping that Puello might be a solution down the road. All the pieces interconnect, though we agree that the Mets need to add a real bat to the lineup, somehow, someway.

gold-gloveI think the Mets must significantly upgrade at shortstop, a position where the team ranks last in the NL in OPS. I have a faint hope they can do big things at first base, but clear hope of improvement. It can’t be much worse. I’m less sure, bordering on confused, about the possibilities in the outfield. Except to say: Let’s begin with the Gold Glove-caliber defense in center, and build out from there.

 

 

 

 

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18 comments

  1. blastingzone says:

    Why not platoon Lagares and Dekker in CF? You need power at the corners not
    single hitters and you can bet that Sandy is going with Ike at first base next year!
    Sandy and Terry are in love with him!! Resign Byrd for one year and trade for a power hitting corner outfielder! You know Byrd can handle the pressure of
    playing in NY and even though he’s having a career year as you put it I have
    a feeling he’s got one more career year left in him? Sandy is not going to trade
    for two corners with power and I ‘m not thrilled with Choo or Ellsbery at the
    corners so resigning Byrd is the logical thing to do and at even six to ten million
    for 2014 he’s a bargin compared to whats out there?

    • I feel the timing is off for this kind of conversation — what are we going to type about in November? — but here goes:

      1) Thanks for reading & for your comment, first of all. It’s appreciated.

      2) With den Dekker, three thoughts: A) I don’t love reducing young players down to platoon roles, my strong preference is for Lagares to be given the opportunity to establish himself as an everyday player; B) It will be a numbers game in the outfield, with Brown and Young in the mix, too; C) I dislike guys who can’t hit at all against either LHP or RHP. Lagares trumps den Dekker, IMO. At worst, he can start in AAA and provide insurance.

      3) On Byrd, I’m leaning toward the re-sign if it’s one-year. I don’t expect his production to fall off a cliff. Also, it’s a stop-gap answer while two interesting OF prospects, Puello and Taijeron, continue to develop toward July call-ups. Maybe you even throw Vaughn into that conversation.

      4) Shortstop is a key, I think. But a guy like Drew seems only marginally better than the 2012 version of Tejeda. There’s room for a significant upgrade.

      5) Sadly, I agree on Ike Davis: I strongly suspect he’ll be here next season.

      6) If they don’t go with Abreu at 1B, we have to ask: Where is the big bat? Cargo seems like the best fit, price to be determined. I’d hate to give up Syndergaard, but that’s where the conversation would start.

      7) Or do you just go out, win the bidding war, and get Choo? That seems cleanest — and we keep the young pitching.

      In the meantime, Dice-K! Just throw strikes, good buddy!

      • Also, I really have no idea where Flores fits into this, though I guess there’s 4+ million reasons why it could be argued for him to replace Murphy at 2B. That said, Murphy has been great. If Flores could run — fast, athletic — I could see him taking over the position. It’s hard to see how he’s better than Murphy in 2014. Does he become our super-utility guy — sub at 3B, 2B, 1B, and pie?

  2. Brian Joura says:

    At what point does a manager punt offense to put a defensive player in the outfield? There’s no hard and fast rule but you’ll be hard pressed to find a guy this young century who has seen significant time in the OF unless he can put up at least a .680 OPS. Can Lagares do that over a full season? He’s at .679 now.

    There are 44 CF this year in MLB who have logged at least 200 PA. Lagares ranks 31st in OPS. If we up it to 400 PA – which knocks out Lagares but gets to the guys who’ve mostly played full-time – only two players have an OPS under .680 and they are Denard Span (.675) and Gregor Blanco (.657).

    Span had a .738 OPS last year so he’ll certainly get more chances. Blanco had a .676 OPS last year and I’ll be shocked if he gets 400 PA again in a future season. If Angel Pagan was healthy, he wouldn’t have gotten them this year.

    Lagares is right on the edge of what managers have shown recently that they’re willing to tolerate offensively for a good glove. He’s young, his hitting could certainly get better — I wouldn’t bet against that happening.

    But I also wouldn’t bet against the Mets having someone else in CF on Opening Day 2015, either.

    • 2015? I agree with that. It’s possible the Mets will seek an upgrade. Look, we enjoyed Beltran for years — now THAT’S a centerfielder. But Lagares fits our field very well, and the Mets are built around pitching. He deserves a long look in 2014, IMO. I’m not a huge fan of WAR, or the blind recitation of defensive stats, but I think that’s the next set of CF numbers to consider, the offensive & defensive combination. On a team with multiple needs, strong defense in CF, practically for free, is a great place to start. There are other fish left to fry.

  3. IB says:

    So, you wouldn’t bet against Lagares becoming a better hitter and you wouldn’t bet against him not being the starting CF in 2015. But, who would?

    • Brian Joura says:

      Ask 10 Mets fans what they think about Lagares. Most of the ones I talk with are convinced he’s a building block (core player, if you prefer) and will be a starter for the next 10 years.

      • Michael Geus says:

        Ten years is steep, silly for just about any player. Things change too fast.

        But when we look at Lagares numbers, one set I have not seen today is a very important one. Service-time numbers. Juan will not be arbitration eligible until 2016. That matters greatly in decision making, a very low salaried centerfielder makes spending on offense at other positions easier.

        And we have plenty of other positions where we could improve both offense and defense (shortstop, and first base are glaring.)

  4. IB says:

    Brian – I guess I should get out more often!
    Our betting public. That’s why the house always wins.

  5. Eraff says:

    Lagares is a emblem for the idea that you provide young players with an opportunity to play…not a gift, an opportunity. FLATLY, the Mets failed to do this BY DESIGN—they ACCIDENTED themselves into playing Juan Lagares. They Let him sit and rot for a couple of months. They did the same thing with JV. I’m not trying to start a riot, but MORE people dismissed JL as a prospect versus those who backed JV as a Prospect—It’s worrisome that this Trio of Geniuses missed an opportunity to demonstrate that they have a Method—in fact, they missed it TWICE.

    We all want to see more of Lagares now…and he deserves the Opportunity. I felt all along that there must be something to a guy who hit 300 in AA as a 21 year old…and 300 in AAA as a 22 year old—at 23, he CAN get better…he SHOULD get bettter.

    The outfield at Citi remains HUGE— a great CF Glove allows you some possibility of playing/platooning lesser Gloves with advantageous bats at the corners—especially left field. The “shrunken RF” remains a large piece of ground—–it demands a professional outfielder.

    I wouldn’t HAND anyone but Wright and d’Arnaud a position….. I wish I could say the same for this FO and Ownership.

    • Michael Geus says:

      I can’t speak for the general population, but I know I was dismissive of Lagares when he was brought up. As it was pre-Super 2, the very fact that he was being brought to the majors had me suspicious of him, twisted logic, I know.

      I never thought he would be this good a defensive centerfielder. But I’ve seen him live plenty now, and he covers a ton of ground and has a great arm too. The glove is real.

      • RAFF says:

        Michael – The current regime twists the truth to match their veiled circumstances, they treat reality with contempt, they are proven to be beyond their depth in their judgment and assessment of talent- both within their own System, and in their view of the relative merits and VALUE of the pool of prospects available to them throughout professional baseball, and they speak DOUBLE-TALK about “process” as they meander, for all the world to see, like Mr. Magoo through a minefield, with no known destination, no readily visible objectives, and no PLAN to get were they are going… How can we, thereby be anything less than cynical as we view the “moves” they make? You were not alone in your “dismissal” of Ligares- for the reasons I just stated..

  6. Jay says:

    For all the talk about his defense, we ignore his real ‘potential’ for offense. Given the drought of offensive ability from Center Fielders these past several years, Juan has the potential to be a top 10-15 producer offensively as a piggy back to his defensive output. He’s not going to blow anyone away with his presence at the plate, but he chops away and gets results. He doesn’t have the best approach but his walk numbers have been rising post all-star break. In fact, Juan’s post all-star break numbers have been quite impressive on the offensive side (just wish he was a little more clutch!!!). Here are some blind splits from 4 CF starters post all-star break (NL and AL included)…. Who would you rather have (Defense not included, although we all know we’re taking Juan’s CF defense over just about anyone in the league).

    AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI AVG OBP SLG

    Player A: 150 26 38 8 2 6 11 .253 .313 .453

    Player B: 144 19 38 7 1 4 14 .264 .310 .410

    Player C: 133 14 37 7 3 3 14 .278 .326 .444

    Player D: 116 19 29 6 0 3 9 .250 .374 .379

    Taking names away from stats reveals a lot. It takes away our preconceived notions we already have about that player and about what that player “should” produce based on his past. Intangibles play a huge role as well and they can’t be quantified by the stats above, but based on statistics there is not as WIDE a gap as we estimated between Lagares and other stars at the position. Now you make the choice.

    Player A= Austin Jackson

    Player B= Jacoby Ellsbury

    Player C= Juan Lagares

    Player D= Shin-soo Choo

    • Outstanding comment, Jay. Thanks for swinging by.

      I’ll take Austin Jackson, thanks very much!

      That said, sure, it’s reasonable to hope that the solidly-built Lagares — who has added the bunt to his weaponry — could develop into a good hitter. Ellsbury is so erratic, I’d be afraid to throw much money at him. Choo would make a reliable corner outfielder, I think. Be interesting to see how they land on the draft pick issue. It’s hard to give up a #1 when you aren’t signing a player at the very top of the pyramid.

      • Jay says:

        I’ll cosign on Austin, but theres something about homegrown’s that makes me all Tom Cruise on Oprah’s couch crazy. I know its delusional but its the visceral aspect of it that feeds me hope. All I’m hoping for is that Sandy gives Juan a chance in Center. It’s a certain stigma that we attach towards players that weren’t Top 100 prospects in the minors yet make some noise in the majors. We always try and gauge their performance over a longer period to account for sustainability, so after a year of productivity we try and see if it can equate to 2, 3, 4 years and so on; never really giving the player any breathing room for natural regression and a learning curve.

        • Terry’s first impulse was to use Lagares as part of a platoon — with Kirkkkkk of all people — and I dislike that tendency of his, that reduces the ultimate value of any player right out of the box. In Terry’s defense, he’s been dealing with a parade of very limited players, so he tries to think himself out of the mess. He gets all mix-and-matchy. There’s an old Cuban expression, “When you cry, I taste salt.” Well, when Terry thinks too hard, I get a headache.

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