Mets Should Still Keep Wilmer Flores
Mets folk hero and utility player Wilmer Flores has been diagnosed with arthritis in both of his knees, and there are some indications the Mets are will non-tender him this offseason making him a free agent a year earlier than scheduled. In many ways, this seems like an odd decision.
For starters, the Mets have not shied away from giving money to injured and injury prone players. The Mets gave Yoenis Cespedes $110 million knowing he had calcified heels which would one day require surgical correction. In a similar circumstance to Flores, the Mets opted to keep Matt Harvey by giving him $5.625 million despite Harvey’s Tommy John, TOS, and stress reaction issues over the past four years.
Perhaps more analogous to the aforementioned situatiosn, the Mets gave Jay Bruce $39 million even though the team had no need for a left-hand hitting corner outfielder and Bruce having a history of knee issues. In fact, back in 2014, Bruce would have surgery to repair partially torn meniscus. As noted by UW Medicine, a torn meniscus could lead to arthritis. While we do not know if Bruce has arthritis or not, that is an assumed risk the Mets took despite having Cespedes, Michael Conforto, and Brandon Nimmo on the 40 man roster.
When it comes to Bruce, what the Mets really cared about here was production and Bruce’s ability to stay on the field. It was a risk that backfired. What is interesting with Flores is he was able to stay on the field, and he was able to produce.
From June 15th until September 1st, Flores was an everyday player for the Mets. In that stretch, he hit .281/.325/.446 with 17 doubles, eight homers, and 35 RBI. Over this stretch, he had a 110 wRC+. Among players with 250 plate appearances over this stretch, that wRC+ was fourth best among MLB first basemen. It would have also ranked as fourth best among second baseman and sixth among third baseman.
Overall, Flores’ bat will play at any infield position. More than that, time and again, we have seen Flores is capable of taking over a position for an extended stretch of time while giving the Mets good production. That’s an important thing when the Mets actively signs players like Bruce who they will know will miss time.
When further analyzing the roster, you realize the Mets need Flores’ right-handed bat.
Looking at the projected 2019 roster, the Mets are going to heavily rely on left-handed bats. In addition to Bruce, Conforto, and Nimmo, the Mets also have Jeff McNeil. Outside of Todd Frazier, the Mets do not have any real right-handed power bats on the roster. It’s possible Amed Rosario could be that one day, but he’s not there yet.
Point being, when the Mets face a tough left-handed pitcher, they will need a player like Flores who they can put into the lineup. He could spell McNeil at second, or he could move over to first for Bruce. With respect to Bruce, it would help keep him fresher and hopefully more productive.
You could argue this spot could be filled by T.J. Rivera, but no one knows if he will be able to play next year. More than that, the Mets would be a stronger team with a stronger bench if they have both Flores and Rivera.
This is not to suggest Flores isn’t without his flaws. He is not a good defender at any position even if he is passable on the right side of the infield. While his knees have not forced him to the disabled list, he has been injury prone, even if they are freak injuries like him fouling a ball off his face.
Still, Flores is a player who is a perfect fit for this roster. More than that, he is a player who is a fan favorite, and he has shown himself to be clutch as well with him being the Mets all-time leader in walk-off RBI. Taking all of this into account, the Mets would be foolish to parts ways with Flores over a one-year commitment, especially when we know the Mets will not reinvest that money and sign a player anywhere near as good as Flores.