Mets Should Pursue Lorenzo Cain
Entering 2020, Bradley was a 90 wRC+ player over the previous three seasons. His exit velocities have been dropping. His defensive numbers have as well.
In terms of OAA, from 2017 – 2019, he dropped a 3 OAA each year. He was still quite good with a 7 OAA last year. Still, as we see at Baseball Savant, he’s been seeing a steady drop in his reaction time, burst, and jump.
For a player who is about to turn 31, you wonder how long before his defense takes a real dip. When that happens, Bradley has little of value to offer. Seeing that, the Mets should at least look elsewhere.
With the entire NL Central looking to dump salary, you wonder if the Milwaukee Brewers would be looking to trade Lorenzo Cain. Certainly, the $35 million remaining on the last two years of his deal would be a motivating factor.
If a free agent, Cain would arguably be the second best option on the market.
Obviously, Cain’s main value is with his glove. In fact, Cain leads the majors with a 45 DRS since 2017. His OAA numbers are similarly phenomenal.
In 2019, his last season played, Cain had a 14 OAA which was third best in the majors. That was a step back from when he was a 21 DRS in 2018, which was second best in the majors.
Now, this is SIGNIFICANTLY better than what Bradley has produced. Since 2017, Bradley has a 17 DRS. While impressive and good for fifth best in the majors, it pales in comparison to Cain.
On the OAA front, Bradley is a little closer. That said, Bradley has had a combined 13 OAA over the past two years. That is less than the 14 OAA Cain put up in 2019.
Now, there are some issues with Cain. After all, his defense did slip a bit. His sprint speed has steadily declined in each of the past three years. That said, his 27.8 ft/sec is still a bit faster than Bradley’s 27.6. More to the point, Cain played superior defensively at that speed.
Cain is also a much better bat. From 2016 – 2019, Bradley was a 90 wRC+ hitter. Cain was a 106. Cain is also a right-handed bat which works better in the Mets lineup.
Now, there are some who will point to Bradley’s 119 wRC+ last year. However, that’s due for a serious regression with his .343 BABIP and his woeful exit velocity stats. Basically, we can expect his offensive production to not just return to his 90 wRC+ levels. In fact, we could see him go well below that.
By and large, Cain’s advanced stats have held steady. He’s essentially had the same barrels and hard hit rates. Yes, with him entering his age 35 season, we could expect him to regress.
Overall, it would at least appear a regression for Cain would look like what Bradley’s current level of production is. We should keep in mind Bradley may still continue to regress.
With that, and the intangibles Cain brings to the table, it would seem Cain is the far better option. Keep in mind, when the Josh Hader news hit during the All-Star Game, Cain was a driving force keeping that clubhouse together.
While Cain would seem to be the better player and fit, the question is whether it’s worth trading for him over just signing Bradley. The answer is it depends.
If the Mets could offset Cain’s contract by unloading a Jeurys Familia, you move much closer to it being the preferable option. If you’re giving up players like J.D. Davis, who have no position along with a very small piece, you have to consider it.
Obviously, if the Brewers want a significant return that doesn’t resemble what is largely a contract dump, the Mets should walk and just sign someone else to play center. However, up until that point, the Mets should strongly consider Cain for center because not only is he the best option available, but he’s also a very good fit for this team.