How many times have you visited WebMD to diagnose your aches and pains? How many times do you think New York Mets third baseman David Wright has attempted to determine why he is so injury prone?
After a stress fracture in his back in 2011, a hamstring strain in 2013, a nagging rotator cuff injury in 2014, spinal stenosis in 2015, and most recently undergoing surgery on a herniated disk in his neck on Thursday, David Wright’s season has once again come to a screeching halt. Another devastating injury to the Captain has left a gaping hole in an already battered Mets infield.
Have you ever tried patching a hole in a boat, or an inflatable pool toy, only to try out your handiwork and sink? That’s what the Mets are attempting to do. On June 8th the club reacquired veteran INF Kelly Johnson from the tanking Atlanta Braves. The Mets front office also discussed promoting a quality defensive second baseman, but offensive liability, in Dilson Herrera, and moving current second baseman Neil Walker to third base. Wilmer Flores is currently getting some time at the hot corner while the team treads water, and waits for the trade market to develop.
Bad news: it’s going to take more than the players on the active roster, duct tape, and gorilla glue to fix the infield. Good news: the Mets front office has the chance to be proactive and find a viable solution immediately.
Highly touted Cuban INF Yulieski Gourriel defected from his home country in February, and was declared a free agent by Major League Baseball earlier in June. In 2006, MLB scouts described Gourriel as the “Cuban Alex Rodriguez,” and a player who would have been a first-round pick in the amateur draft if he were eligible.
At 32 years of age, Gourriel has amassed significant experience playing 15 seasons in the Cuban league Serie Nacional, and one season for the Yokohama Bay Stars of the Japanese Central League. He hopes to make his MLB debut by August 1st, and figures to attract the interest of several suitors.
While Gurriel expressed interest in joining the New York Yankees and his former teammate Aroldis Chapman, him landing in the Bronx seems more and more unlikely as the Yankees continue to slide. Chapman is a free agent after the 2016 season, and the Pinstripes appear poised to move Chapman before the trade deadline to one of countless clubs who have already expressed significant interest. The problem of Chase Headley also fogs the likelihood of the Yankees signing Gurriel. Headley is in the second year of a four-year $52 million deal. As a counter argument, the Yankees could move Headley to first base if injured first baseman Mark Teixeira needs surgery. For now, lets assume the Yanks are out of the race.
As far as gaging the market for the latest Cuban ballplayer, the Kansas City Royals might be interested in signing Gurriel after Mike Moustakas tore his ACL and is out for the remainder of the year. The Cleveland Indians could sign Gurriel to a deal and replace struggling third baseman Juan Uribe, who is slashing just .217/.276/.299 on the year.
The tremendous opportunity for the Mets to replace David Wright is two-fold. Even at age 32, Gurriel could look to sign a deal through next season, and try to sign a large free agent contract if he plays well. A short-term deal also minimizes any risk the Mets would take in the deal. Signing a fellow Cuban could persuade stud OF Yoenis Cespedes to stay in New York beyond 2016. If David Wright returns in 2017, Gurriel is versatile enough to play anywhere in the infield or corner outfield spot.
Should the price for Gurriel be too high for the Mets’ wallet, the club still has several more affordable options in the trade market. Oakland Athletics third baseman Danny Valencia is having a career season, and will definitely be moved before the trade deadline. Though he can be a liability in the clubhouse, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim third baseman Yunel Escobar would be an upgrade over anyone currently on the Mets roster. Minnesota Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe could be an option, but he’s having a terrible year (.240/.266/.369) after hitting 22 home runs in 2015.
My personal choice would be Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman David Freese. It’s only a matter of time before the Bucs slip out of playoff contention, and figure to move a few players for the right price. Freese is having a decent year, slashing .292/.370/.438 (all above his career averages). More importantly, Freese has proven himself to be clutch in postseason games, especially when he launched the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series victory in 2011 with 8 2B, 5 HRs, and 21 RBI in 18 games that postseason.
If the Mets decide not to pursue Yulieski Gurriel, any of those guys can be had in exchange for a mid-tier prospect. It’s painfully obvious the Mets cannot compete with borderline big leaguers that swing like a rusty gate. As the trade market develops over the next several weeks, and Gurriel works out for prospective clubs, the Mets will realize it’s time to sink or swim.
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com