This past offseason in an effort to build outfield depth, Brodie Van Wagenen traded prospects Adam Hill and Felix Valerio along with Bobby Wahl to the Brewers for Keon Broxton. With Wahl suffering a torn ACL in his knee, it does not appear like the players given up by the Mets will haunt them this year. It will be quite a while before Hill or Valerio have a chance to establish themselves, and by that point, this trade will largely be a distant memory.
When looking at this trade, the issues aren’t so much the prospects traded. It is about Broxton as a player.
After impressing as a 26 year old rookie in 2016, Broxton has not been a good baseball player. In his only full season as a starter, he had an 85 wRC+ and a – DRS meaning he was subpar at the plate and in the field. Certainly, this was one of the reasons which drove the Brewers to sign Lorenzo Cain as a free agent.
As a bench piece last year, Broxton did show some value as a defensive replacement. In 134.1 innings, he had an 11 DRS and a 6.5 UZR. Now, the UZR was a complete outlier for him, but it should be noted Broxton did have a 9 DRS two seasons prior. In essence, there was every reason to believe Broxton was a good defensive outfielder. He may not have been great, but you could make the case he was good.
When you look at the Mets team, they didn’t have a need for that type of player. In fact, the Mets already had that in Juan Lagares, who the team was already scheduled to pay $9 million. Considering Lagares’ contract was going to be next to impossible to move, the team was really adding a duplicative player who played worse defense.
There could be an argument here that even at 28 Broxton had some untapped offensive potential. After all, this was a guy who had good power, and he had a very good 24.1 percent HR/FB ratio. If you could get him to stop striking out at an insanely high clip (36.9 percent) and get him to lift the ball more (1.45 GB/FB), maybe you had something there. Reasonably, the Mets could have believed Chili Davis was the hitting coach to bring that out of him.
Herein lies the issue with Broxton. The Mets needed a contingency for what if Davis couldn’t get through to him right away. Typically speaking, you’d like to send a player like that down to the minors, especially since you have a player like Lagares on the roster. However, the Mets can’t do that because Broxton is out of options.
To make matters worse, the Mets are bereft of outfield depth. That’s one of the reasons why Jeff McNeil became an everyday outfielder on this team (the other is the team has far too many duplicative infielders). Partially due to Broxton’s presence, the Mets sat idly by while quality outfielders like Curtis Granderson (who also could have served as a left-handed bat off the bench) signed cheap free agent deals with other teams.
So far, the Mets have made a mistake bringing Broxton aboard. He is someone who is duplicative, and he is someone without options. Unless Van Wagenen is willing to do to Broxton what he did to Travis d’Arnaud, Broxton is going to continue taking up space on this roster while contributing very little. There is time for that to change, but it’s hard to see it changing without Broxton getting the at-bats he needs to improve as a player.