Mets Should Avoid Kris Bryant
There were two interesting tidbits early on in free agency regarding Kris Bryant. First, the New York Mets rushed to talk to Scott Boras about him. Second, the San Francisco Giants may not have interest in bringing Bryant back.
When an organization like the Giants has their doubts after seeing him up close, it should give you pause. They’re not infallible, but if the reports are indeed true, it requires further examination.
As written about previously, Bryant is a very poor fielder. In fact, Bryant posted a negative OAA at first (-1), third (-4), short (-1), and right (-4). Overall, he had a -9 OAA, which rated him as the 13th worst fielder in the majors.
The fact Bryant plays so many positions is a paradox. On the one hand, it could be argued moving around as much as he does prevents him from focusing and improving at any one position. Conversely, it could be he’s so poor everywhere, teams need to move him around to try to hide him.
It’s Schrödinger’s cat. You don’t know which it is until you sign him to play a position. Not until that point will you know if he needs to return to third, focus on the corner OF, or quite possibly DH. For the $150+ million deal he may get, that’s a very risky proposition.
Truth be told, no one is signing Bryant for his glove. They’re signing him for his bat.
Here’s the thing, Bryant isn’t the elite-elite hitter he once was. Over the first three years of his career, he was a 141 OPS+. For varying reasons, he’s no longer that hitter.
Since 2018, Bryant has been a 122 OPS+ hitter. That’s still very good, but it’s short of being the elite hitter Bryant once was. This, in turn, means Bryant’s bat can’t mask his defense.
Bryant’s seen his launch angle decline over the years. Until this year, his strikeout rating worsened gradually. There are some theories including his long swing.
It is something he has worked to address his entire career. He did seem to make progress last year with pitchers getting him out with the high fastball. He’s very good, but the question is can he keep it up. There are doubts.
In some ways, while the swings are different, Bryant might face the same challenges Evan Longoria did. Like Bryant, Longoria had a lot of moving parts and an athletic swing.
It was around 30 Longoria had a drop-off at the plate. After that, he wasn’t the same player. At least not until the Giants organization had a radical analytical overhaul. Finally, we got to see something closer to the prime Longoria.
What this means for Bryant is anyone’s guess. Maybe he can avoid the career downturn Longoria experienced. Maybe, it’s unavoidable.
What we do know is the Mets aren’t currently constituted to take that risk. Bryant increasingly looks like a 1B/DH, and there’s real questions about that bat going forward. While the Mets have made strides, they don’t have the infrastructure to delay or mitigate Bryant’s eventual career regression.
Remember the issue with Bryant isn’t necessarily 2022 or 2023. It’s what comes next. While other organizations, like the Giants, are built for that, the Mets aren’t, at least not yet.
After all, how could they without a president of baseball operations or GM. For that matter, they don’t have a hitting coach. As a result, they just can’t take the Bryant risk right now. There are better options and better fits for the franchise, and the Mets should look in those directions.