Michael Baron, Contributor
There are 15 days left before Opening Day. The Mets were trying to figure out how to construct their outfield, most of their bullpen, and fill a void in their starting rotation.
With the possibility of David Wright opening the season on the disabled list, the Mets now have to also figure out how to fill a void open at third base, even if it’s only for a week.
The current options include: Justin Turner, Zach Lutz, Brian Bixler and Brandon Hicks.
Hicks is on the 40-man roster, but his defense has been inconsistent this spring, no matter which position he’s played.
Bixler has shown some power this spring, although he doesn’t have much of a track record. He’s a career .189 hitter in 183 games since 2008, and he’s played 14 games at third base over that span. He’s also not on the 40-man roster, and the Mets are already lacking roster flexibility; I don’t see the Mets adding him and cutting someone else to fill what could only be a short-term gap.
Lutz is healthy and can hit for power, he’s on the 40-man roster, but he lacks big league experience mostly because he’s spent a lot of time injured over the last couple of years. If Wright starts the season on the disabled list, I could envision a scenario where Lutz makes the club, but not as a solution to fill a hole at third base on an everyday basis just yet.
That leaves Justin Turner who, to me, is the most viable option. He has shown over the last couple of years he’s a versatile utility man all around the infield; he’s shown he can play all four positions at least serviceably over the course of his Mets career, and he has the most experience out of any of the other candidates.
Update – 2 p.m.: Justin Turner left Saturday’s game with a right ankle sprain.
Yesterday, a lot of people asked me about Wilmer Flores, and potentially having him fill the potential void. Yes, he is on the 40-man roster and has played a lot of third base over the last couple of seasons. But a) he has never played a day above Double-A, b) from what understand, the Mets are clearly trying to see what his value is at second base, and c) I don’t think it’s a good idea whatsoever to use the team’s only legitimate hitting prospect to fill a short-term need, even if it’s for a day. The Mets have been down this road with Jenrry Mejia, and that has yet to work out for them.
The best thing to do with Flores is to stay the course, and send him to Triple-A, which is what I think will ultimately happen. That way, he can play every day at the position where there might be a long-term need for the organization. They can determine what he is defensively, and see if he can fully develop offensively without the pressures to succeed at the Major League level.