Time to Move On from Alejandro De Aza
To put it as succinctly as possible, Alejandro De Aza has not been a good baseball player this year. He rarely plays, and when he does play, he has only served as a detriment. In 52 games, he has hit .169/.221/.247 with a 28 OPS+. To put it in perspective, everyone’s least favorite Met, Eric Campbell, is hitting .159/.270/.222 with a 37 OPS+. When you are incapable of outplaying Campbell, who is currently playing in AAA, you must question what purpose it serves having De Aza on the major league roster.
Initially, Terry Collins wanted De Aza to suceed. It was less than a month ago that Collins said he wanted to get De Aza more playing time so he could get going and put up the numbers he once did. Collins stayed true to his word as De Aza has played more in June than any other month. De Aza has played in a season high 20 games and received a season high 42 plate appearances. He has rewarded Collins by having his worst month of the season hitting .128/.171/.205. Slowly, Collins realized that whatever the reason, this wasn’t working out, and he began to look elsewhere for outfield options in the wake of Juan Lagares on the disabled list and Yoenis Cespedes being a bit nicked up. It has gotten to the point where Collins put Matt Reynolds in left for a game despite Reynolds never having played a game in the outfield as a professional.
Still, De Aza got some starts and at bats as he was the only completely healthy center fielder on the roster. However, at this point, Collins may have had enough of De Aza.
On Satuday, the Mets were locked in a scoreless game in the top of the tenth. De Aza was sent up there to bunt Wilmer Flores over to second base in the hopes that the Mets could FINALLY push a run across the plate. De Aza then popped the bunt in the air and made zero effort to get to first. This led to Braves’ pitcher Jim Johnson astutely letting it drop and completing the double play. Collins was incensed and laid into De Aza. After the game, he said, “I’ve seen [De Aza] play, and the one thing he is known for is how hard he plays. But it goes to show you — everybody gets frustrated when they don’t do the job.” (New York Post). It seems that Collins had finally had enough.
Yesterday, Collins decided to put rookie Brandon Nimmo in right field, a position he has only played 32 times in six minor league seasons and Kelly Johnson in left field. After Saturday, it is no surprise that De Aza was on the bench. In fact, the only surprise would have been if De Aza received any consideration to start.
What is even more surprising is De Aza’s presence on the major league roster. We can all agree De Aza is a much better player he has shown on the Mets, but so did John Mayberry last year. For whatever reason, it hasn’t worked for either player during their time with the Mets. The Mets were wise to cut bait with Mayberry last year, and they should do the same with De Aza this year. In his stead, the Mets have a few good options in the minors that could easily replicate, if not improve, what De Aza has given the Mets this year.
First, there is Travis Taijeron. He is currently hitting .306/.392/.568 in AAA right now. He has shown powers at each level he plays, and he should be able to hit for some power in the big leagues. He is a good defensive corner outfielder that may not be able to handle center that well. However, with Nimmo on the roster, finding a backup center fielder is not as big a priority right now.
If the Mets wanted to go with a true back up center fielder and a player with big league experience, they could go with Roger Bernadina. Bernadina has played a steady center field over his major league career. Over his last three major league seasons, he averaged a -0.2 UZR and a 0.7 DRS in center fielder. These are unspectacular numbers, but it goes to show you he will not hurt the Mets if he is needed to play center field.
At the plate, he is a .236/.307/.354 major league hitter. However, Bernadina played in the minor leagues all of last year. Given what De Aza has done this year you’d be hard pressed to say Bernadina’s career numbers wouldn’t be an improvement. In AAA, he has hit .298/.384/.466, which coincidentally, is very similar to the .276/.383/.466 he put up in the Pacific Coast League last year. At a minimum, you can say that Bernadina is not a player in decline like Mayberry was last year and De Aza seems to be this year.
Given the Mets current World Series aspirations, they can ill afford to wait for De Aza especially since he looks dejected out there. He is forcing the Mets hands to make a move similar to how the Mets made a move on Mayberry last year. With Taijeron and Bernadina in the minors, the Mets can and should release De Aza and call-up a player who promises to put up better production.