Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
With their trade for Jake Marisnick, the Mets have added an elite defensive center fielder who might not give them much in terms of offense. But the acquisition will likely have ripple effects throughout the roster.
GM Brodie Van Wagenen made it known earlier this offseason that he was seeking to improve the Mets' defense. He also made it clear he preferred to play Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo in the corner outfield spots.
With Wilson Ramos expected to return as the catcher and the infield defense up the middle set with Amed Rosario at shortstop and Robinson Cano at second base, center field seemed like the one spot where the Mets could seriously upgrade their defense. Now that they've done it, what will it mean for Conforto, Nimmo, and J.D. Davis? And what kind of impact will it have on Jeff McNeil?
Scenario 1: Marisnick plays a lot, Nimmo and Conforto play in the corners
Marisnick is a career .227/.280/.380 hitter, but his elite defense (he ranked near the top of the league in outs above average, sprint speed, and outfielder jump this past season) makes him valuable.
He started 73 games in 2019 for the Astros and appeared in 109.
On days when Marisnick is in center field, the Mets can shift Conforto and Nimmo to the corner outfield spots, where Van Wagenen wants them.
In the above alignment, Marisnick would give the Mets a terrific defender in center while Nimmo (who is below average in center field) and Conforto (who is well below average in center field) are in a better position to succeed.
Bu on days where Marisnick, Nimmo, and Conforto start, J.D. Davis would likely be on the bench.
If the Mets feel the defensive value Marisnick provides (and the poor left field defense Davis provides) justifies the above, it could make sense as an alignment that is used often. If not...
Scenario 2: Marisnick plays primarily against lefties, as does Davis
In order to get Davis' bat in the lineup more often, the Mets could opt to platoon Nimmo and Marisnick in center field, with Nimmo starting there most games against right-handers and Marisnick starting there most games against left-handers.
Nimmo is a career .253/.368/.415 hitter against lefties, while Marisnick is a career .234/.291/.410 hitter against lefties. So like the first scenario, Marisnick would be in there not because of his offense, but because of his defense.
If the Mets believe the combination of Davis' bat and Marisnick's defense is better than the combination of Davis' bat and Nimmo's offense/defense combination, the above could make sense. If not...
Scenario 3: Marisnick is used primarily off the bench
This seems unlikely, since -- as noted above -- the trade for Marisnick accomplishes Van Wagenen's goal of improving the team's defense and seemingly will make Van Wagenen's other goal (using Conforto and Nimmo in the corners often) a reality.
But as we've touched on a few times already this offseason, a full outfield with Conforto and Nimmo in the corners (regardless of who the center fielder is) means Davis potentially being the odd man out. And it's very hard to justify a hitter of Davis' caliber not starting most games.
If the Mets opt to use Marisnick primarily off the bench, Davis could wind up starting most games in left field -- even though he prefers to play third base.
No matter what happens as far as the outfield, it seems that Jeff McNeil -- who spent a lot of time in the outfield in 2019 -- will be the team's regular third baseman.