The New York Mets can’t afford to block their youth. Playing the likes of Robinson Cano and Eduardo Nunez is only hurting the team’s future.
The New York Mets have fallen into a trap in recent years. They’ve felt the need to play veterans over trusting their youth. It’s led to a trade for Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier playing every day, Austin Jackson starting in centerfield, and Jose Reyes getting any playing time.
This reliance on veterans taking over starter and primary depth roles is dangerous for the franchise. The lack of major league development for the Mets youth has been detrimental and it has a chance to put a damper on the team’s future.
The Mets can’t afford to fall into this trap again in 2020. They need to prepare to move onto the next generation and identify who can help them do that. Otherwise, they’re setting themselves up to fail.
Robinson Cano is blocking Andres Gimenez and that can’t continue
The biggest tragedy is at second base. Robinson Cano was part of the trade that should have never been. New York traded one of the top prospects in baseball for a reliever and a 36-year-old second baseman making $20 million a year.
There’s nothing that they can do about that trade now, but they can make sure it doesn’t continue to haunt them. They made the deal for Cano because they didn’t trust in Jeff McNeil‘s potential, and he proved them wrong. Now McNeil is playing third base and Cano is blocking a different prospect, Andres Gimenez.
Gimenez has been one of the stars of spring training. He’s been impressive at the plate and his defense has turned heads. The elite defensive shortstop will likely have to move to second base at the major league level due to Amed Rosario’s presence.
While that’s counterintuitive because of Gimenez’s defensive upside, it at least makes sense. The Mets have an above-average shortstop already and don’t want to move him. What doesn’t make sense is playing the now 37-year-old Robinson Cano instead of Gimenez.
Gimenez is 16 years younger than Cano and he’s nearly major league ready. He currently has nowhere to play on the major league roster and that isn’t going to sort itself out anytime soon. McNeil and Rosario are entrenched on the left side of the infield. Meanwhile, Cano won’t hit free agency until after the 2023 season.
That leaves one of the top-100 prospects in baseball without a home. That can’t continue if the Mets want any sort of future up the middle.
Cano is aging and if 2019 is any indication then he’s in clear decline. The Mets can’t afford to stifle the development of their youth to keep playing a player who is actively hurting the team.
Gimenez should be playing even if his bat isn’t a significant upgrade over Cano in 2020. Gimenez’s defense would be a game-changer for the team. The Mets were the worst defensive team in the National League in 2019, adding a potential Gold Glove level defender should change that. That would be an immediate impact Gimenez would make.
On the bases, Gimenez would add speed that Cano doesn’t possess. Gimenez has plus speed and could be a 30-base stealer at the major league level. The Mets haven’t had a 30-base stealer since 2014.
The question for Gimenez has always been about the bat. He was always going to hit for contact, but he lacks patience and power. That combination is volatile. A ton of strikeouts and no home runs doesn’t make a strong hitter in modern baseball.
However, Gimenez is already turning that thought on its head. He’s fifth on the spring team in slugging among players with at least 20 at-bats. Even more impressive, Gimenez only has two strikeouts in his 26 plate appearances.
This could be Gimenez’s new normal. He led the Arizona Fall League in batting average and OPS in 2019. His poor numbers in 2019 were mostly the results of a wrist injury that plagued him through the first half.
Gimenez is set to make his debut sometime in 2020. When the time comes that he’s ready to make the jump, the Mets have to be willing to let him. They can’t let the fear of uncertainty hold them hostage.
If they do, it could be a huge blow to the team from 2020 onwards. Especially if the choice is to play Robinson Cano instead.
There’s no reason Eduardo Nunez should make the 26-man roster
The Mets have cycled through depth pieces at an incredible rate the past few years. The elite teams in baseball don’t do that. Take the Los Angeles Dodgers for example.
They’ve had the same depth pieces for years like Chris Taylor and Kike Hernandez. The ones who don’t, are replaced through their system with players like Matt Beaty.
The Mets have struggled to do that. They began to do it in 2019 with Dom Smith on the bench, but that’s it. J.D. Davis was acquired in a trade, Adeiny Hechavarria, Carlos Gomez, and Joe Panik were free agents, and they traded for Keon Broxton.
That’s how a team builds a poor bench. They need to build it from within with pieces that fit the team’s needs. The Mets have a key opportunity to do that in 2020 and it seems like they’re going to throw it away.
The Mets have a very clear answer for their 26th spot on the roster, Luis Guillorme. He isn’t the biggest bat, but he’s also not the liability he used to be. He’s serviceable as a backup offensively.
What makes him special is his defense, and he can play at a high level at shortstop, second, and third. The Mets defense was atrocious in 2019 and they need to do everything they can to fix that. Luis Guillorme help with that. Even if he’s only playing a couple of times a week or as a late-inning substitution.
The spot should be filled just like that. Instead, the Mets have to make things more complicated. They seem determined to give the spot to declining veteran Eduardo Nunez.
Nunez is the opposite of Guillorme. He’s been a bat-first player his entire career. He can technically play any position on the field except catcher, first base, and center field, but that’s really not the case. The truth is that Nunez can’t play any position in the field. He’s one of the worst defensive players in baseball.
His bat was the only thing keeping him afloat, and it’s grabbed the Mets’ attention in spring training. Nunez is hitting .318/.400/.440 in spring. That’s impressive for sure, but it also shouldn’t overrule what he did the past two seasons.
Nunez hit just .255/.277/.366 the last two seasons. That’s no better than what Luis Guillorme hits at the plate. Why should Nunez get a spot on the 26-man when he’s a clear cut worse option based on all available information?
The Mets can’t afford to be dazzled by Nunez’s fake versatility and his spring hitting. They need to stay the course and play the 25-year-old prospect who fits exactly what they need on their bench.
If they don’t, they are just making their bench problems from 2019 that much worse in 2020. Not to mention, the lack of major league experience will effect Guillorme’s ability to play in the future, effectively stunting his development.
The New York Mets have to avoid that at all costs. They can’t afford to stunt the growth of the few major league ready prospects they have. It’ll cost them down the line if they do.