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Kolten Wong May Be Better Option Than DJ LeMahieu

With Robinson Cano‘s PED suspension, there’s at least the suspicion the Mets could look to replace him through free agency. Given Steve Cohen’s deep pockets, the popular name initially surfaced is DJ LeMahieu.

It’s certainly understandable why the Mets would have interest in LeMahieu. First and foremost, he has versatility allowing the Mets to move him and Jeff McNeil around the diamond.

He’s been a top five MVP finalist and a Silver Slugger both years with the Yankees, and he’s more than shown the ability to handle New York. The latter point is something which should never be discounted.

Still, LeMahieu isn’t perfect, and there are some indications he may not be a good fit with the Mets.

First and foremost, he is a Yankee Stadium monster. Over the past two years, he has hit .366/.421/.642 with a 183 wRC+. Away from Yankee Stadium, LeMahieu is a .309/.354/.439 with a 112 wRC+. Another important note is he has a .378 BABIP at Yankee Stadium and a .334 BABIP at home. That BABIP point is noteworthy because prior to his becoming a Yankee he was a .307 BABIP player. This means what he has done the past two years is outside of what his normal skillset is.

Put another way, if you take LeMahieu out of Yankee Stadium, we can very likely expect his offensive numbers to regress significantly. Now, if he is a 112 wRC+ player, that is very valuable. Realistically speaking, it should not be out of the realm of possibility he around that, but it should be noted LeMahieu was an 90 wRC+ hitter before signing with the Yankees.

Another important note with LeMahieu is his defense is slipping. When he was with the Colorado Rockies, he was a two time Gold Glover. This was more than reputation as his defensive metrics were quite good as well. In his final two years in Colorado, he had a 9 and 13 OAA as well as a 12 and 14 DRS. Simply put, there may not have been a better defender at second than him.

However, over the last two years, his defense has slipped. After a slightly above average 2 OAA and 3 DRS, he dropped to a -1 OAA and 0 DRS. That isn’t surprising as that occurred in LeMahieu’s age 30 and 31 seasons. That’s an important consideration as he is now at an age when his defense typically declines year-to-year.

What makes that all the more alarming is Michael Kay’s report on The Michael Kay Show that LeMahieu is looking at a five year deal. If you are the Mets, you already have a former Yankees second baseman signed to a burdensome contract. There is absolutely no reason to willingly become tethered to another one.

If the Mets want to bring in another second baseman a much more preferable option would be Kolten Wong.

Wong is coming off back-to-back Gold Glove winning seasons at second. Looking at his defense, he has had a 16, 19, and 6 DRS in each of the past three seasons and an 11, 8, and 2 OAA. It should be noted here last season’s numbers were not necessarily indicative of a drop off as much as it was because of the shortened 2020 season (yes, you can argue the same with LeMahieu).

At the plate, Wong is a batter who does not strike out often, and he has really improved his eye at the plate. Both his strikeout and walk rates have been above-average the past two seasons. That is a large reason why Wong has improved to being a 103 wRC+ over the past two years which is an improvement over his 96 career mark.

No, Wong is not as exciting as LeMahieu, and his ceiling may not be the same. However, Wong doesn’t present the same troubles LeMahieu present. He has not shown signs of decline in the field. His offensive stats have not been buttressed by unsustainably high BABIPs or by playing in an extreme hitter’s park, and he’s not going to command that monster contract which promises to be an albatross at some point.

Another very important consideration is there is not a wide chasm in terms of overall production from these two players. Over the past two years, LeMahieu has accumulated an impressive 8.7 WAR. For his part, Wong has accumulated a very overlooked 6.3 WAR. Yes, LeMahieu has been better, but not to the point where he should get significantly more in terms of years and AAV.

Overall, if the Mets don’t want to entrust second base to McNeil (which they should), it would seem the much better action would be to sign Wong to a shorter term and cheaper deal. With Wong, there is not the same regression fears, and it will open up money to invest in other areas of need.

12 thoughts on “Kolten Wong May Be Better Option Than DJ LeMahieu”

  1. Chris says:

    I like Wong but I would like McNeil to play 2b.

    My preference is to stay away from guys like DJ and Lindor. If they are going to make a trade, I’d explore a trade for a real 3b, Aranado. Clear up a bit of the log jam the Mets have. I’d start by offering a package around: Nimmo, Davis, Rosario, Guillorme and see where it takes us. Younger guys, major league experience and relatively cheap and under control.
    Then see if the Mets can get Springer for CF and McCann for catcher.
    Smith plays left (not ideal but ok with Springer in CF – unless the DH comes back and then Smith plays 1b and Alonso DH’s).
    Offense still good. Defense better at 3b and up the middle.

    Then focus on pitching.

  2. Oldbackstop says:

    Arenado has something like 6 years and 200 million left on his contract, and he just came off a negative oWAR year, slashing 253/.303/.434 .738. This is the kind of contract that always brought the Mets up on speed dial as the Suckers In The Room. In this Broke New World we won’t have to give up anything, and they would probably toss in the owner’s daughter if we asked.

    1. Chris says:

      I know he was down, but I expect him to bounce back…2020 is an outlier and he fills a hole with someone better than we have now, and he is right handed. Davis cant do it, McNeil cant do it, I doubt Rosario can do it, so what do we have?? Even down, he is better than what we have at that spot. If we don’t have to give much all the better. Contract wise if we are now truly a big market team, so be it.

  3. LongTimeFan1 says:

    Kolten Wong – No thanks.

    Lifetime .717 OPS and .374 SLG.

    2020 ..675 with .326 SLG.

    You don’t replace Hall of Fame production with the type of player that should be bench, utility, not starter on this team. Wong is the type of player teams should look to sign in February when in short term need or to round out bench. This is like signing the slowerJoe Panik to start.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Wong has been quite a good player the last few years, and the lesson we should’ve learned the last few years is the Mets need to stop analyzing players purely in terms of defensive production.

      Defense matters, and Wong is one of the best.

  4. Rich says:

    Lets try not to overthink this. McNeils best position is 2B. JDs best position is 3rd. Sign Springer and a defensive catcher. (Bauer is another conversation, but I would sign him first of all). If you dont trust JD there are plenty of options. Once we get to June and see where we are you can add from there. I really believe the core should be kept together for now.

    Nimmo LF
    Springer CF
    McNeil 2B
    Alonso DH
    Dom 1B
    JD 3B
    Conforto RF
    Rosey SS
    Catcher

    Gimenez Utility
    Guillorme Utility
    Add OF and IF

    13 Pitchers

    1. Oldbackstop says:

      Wong has a nice WAR record, and he isn’t too old. But is he better than McNeil? Are we getting Wong to be Jed Lowrie? Send Guillorme down, maybe Gimenez too when he reverts to offensive reality?

      We don’t need infielders. We need pitchers.

      1. metsdaddy says:

        Mets still need an everyday third baseman

    2. Oldbackstop says:

      Agree Rich.

    3. metsdaddy says:

      As I noted, if it were me, I’d put McNeil at second. That said, the concept needs to be explored because JD is comically inept in the field, so they need to get someone to play either second or third and let McNeil play the other position.

  5. nickel7168 says:

    I would install McNeil at 2b permanently.
    I’d rather have an upgrade at 3b w DJ LeMahieu’s bat or Avenado’s glove
    and since DJ LeMahieu wouldn’t cost us any players, that’s what I would do.
    I don’t know if he prefers 2b, or how much of a discount he is willing to give the
    Skankees to stay there, but that could make a difference.
    We should not be looking for ANY other 2b with McNeil in house.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      I don’t want DJLM

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