Mets Third Base Solution Is Robinson Cano
With Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson being free agents, you should expect every team who needs an upgrade at third base to be pursuing them heavily. That is everyone expect the New York Mets. The Mets have all but said they’re not pursuing either player, and they are not prepared to exceed the luxury tax threshold.
Getting the obvious out of the way, this is unacceptable. There is really no excuse for the Mets to not at least realistically pursue either player. That said, that is exactly where we are leaving the Mets to find “creative” ways to find someone to replace Todd Frazier at the hot corner.
Based upon Brodie Van Wagenen’s comments, that replacement is going to be an internal option. Looking at things, that is a scary proposition.
J.D. Davis simply cannot handle the position defensively. In 220.0 innings at third last year, he posted a -9 DRS. To put it into perspective, that is actually worse than how Wilmer Flores played the position, and back then, Mets fans were screaming to move him off third.
The other option mentioned was Jed Lowrie. Even mentioning his name is bizarre. Last year, he was limited to eight plate appearances and was not able to play in the field. At the moment, you are hard pressed to find a reason why the Mets can count on him any more than they can count on Yoenis Cespedes as the Mets readily admit they still do not know what is wrong with Lowrie.
The other name mentioned was Jeff McNeil. Due to his versatility, the 2019 All Star who had a 143 wRC+ and a 3 DRS at third is a very viable option for the position. However, for a moment, lets put a pin in that.
When looking at third base, the one name which hasnt’ been mention, but perhaps should be mentioned is Robinson Cano.
Last year, Cano had a bad year by any measure. Due to multiple stints on the disabled list as he battled hamstring issues, he played a career worst 107 games (in a non-PED suspension season). The 93 wRC+ was the second worst of his career, and the -6 DRS was the worst defensive year he has had since 2015. In fact, this was just the second negative DRS he has had since 2008.
With Cano coming off an injury plagued season and with next year being his age 37 season, we should hardly expect those defensive numbers to improve. With second being a fairly rigorous position, you wonder if it would be better for Cano to switch positions to one which would allow his legs more rest, and in turn, would help him offensively.
Looking back to when Cano came off his PED suspension in 2018, that is exactly what the Mariners did. From August 14 until the end of the season, Cano would play 41 games. His breakdown of those games were: 2B (23), 1B (14), 3B (2), DH (1). Yes, Cano’s primary position was second, but he only mainly played second.
Getting the obvious out of the way, there is no way Cano is an answer at first base as Pete Alonso is firmly entrenched there. As for DH, except for isolated interleague games, there is no long term solution at DH. That leaves third.
At the moment, there is little more than conjecture to see if Cano can handle third on a long term basis. We could look at hit -2 DRS in 2018 as evidence he can’t, but that’s as small a sample size as you get. Moreover, that was with him being thrown at the position with little to no preparation.
Through it all, we should remember Cano is a smart player with good hands and a strong arm. His real issue is his range and durability. This is not too dissimilar from what we saw with Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera wasn’t exactly great at third last year with a -4 DRS in 812.0 innings, but it should be noted it was a lot better than the -17 DRS he put up at second base the preceding season.
When it comes to Cano, you can reasonably expect him to be not just a negative defender at third, but also worse than McNeil. However, that is only part of the equation. Taking a more global view, McNeil at second and Cano at third probably presents the best possible defensive alignment while presenting Cano with a position less strenous on his legs thereby keeping him in the lineup more.
If you think about it more, this is a move which is going to have to be made eventually. Cano is signed through the the 2023 season, and he is signed for a lot of money. Looking at the team, they need his bat in the lineup to be successful. To that end, the Mets need to find the best way to both keep his bat in the lineup and help ensure his contract is not more onerous than it already is.
Looking at everything, the solution is to move Cano to third base. That is unless the Mets are actually going to do the right thing by pursuing Rendon or Donaldson.