Wilmer Flores, the super-utility infielder?


BaronThe acquisitions of both Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera have provided the Mets with an infield that has no shortage of options at several positions.

Certainly, the club has taken an indirect route to creating such depth, as it’s moved their primary middle infielders in both Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada lower on the depth chart into roles more suitable for them, and could lead the Mets to consider moving Tejada in some manner before the start of the regular season.

But Flores has may have a more meaningful place on the roster thanks to his ability to play multiple positions on the infield.

Including first base.

And Terry Collins envisions Flores serving in that super-utility role on the infield.

“We’ve certainly got to go into spring training and give Wilmer a chance to play around the infield a little bit more, to put him at some different positions to where we can give guys days off,” Collins said on Tuesday. “We’re certainly aware that we’ve got to keep an eye on [David Wright] and his workload. We’ve got to make sure [Lucas Duda] is rested up. There’s got to be some spots where you’re going to need a bat.”

One area Flores can provide strength in is against left-handed pitching. He posted a .955 OPS against left-handed pitching in 2015, and that can be valuable against tough left-handers and help protect the weaknesses of Walker (he posted a .575 OPS against left-handed pitching in 2015) and provide an insurance policy to Duda in the event he regresses against left-handed pitching in 2016.

Keeping Flores mobile on the infield will help protect against his own weaknesses as well, which lies primarily with his foot speed and overall range on the middle infield.

And there should be plenty of at-bats available for Flores in this role as well, which would theoretically increase their production at numerous infield positions from last season.

Flores broke his ankle playing in winter ball, but is expected to be fully recovered and ready for Spring Training.

If Flores is assigned the super-utility infield role, does this mean a reunion with Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson are possible?

There doesn’t seem to be an immediate fit for Johnson, although he would provide suitable depth from the left side on the bench. After all, the only left-handed hitter on the bench at the moment is Kirk Nieuwenhuis, so the Mets could certainly use another left-handed solution. However, he shouldn’t be a terribly expensive investment for the Mets to make for that role – he made only $1.5 million in 2015 and would probably seek a modest raise in free agency.

As for Uribe, he can play second base and he’s obviously still a very effective third baseman. He would probably be an upgrade over Flores as the backup third baseman to Wright, which is something the Mets should be considering as they strive to keep Wright healthy by limiting his exposure.

Certainly, investing in Uribe – and Johnson for that matter – might have a greater return than spending the projected $2.5-3 million on Tejada, who really doesn’t have a role if Flores is going to serve in the role the Mets are now envisioning him to be in.

It remains to be seen if they pursue these avenues, now that Cabrera and Walker are in the fold, although Collins said the front office is still pursuing several backup solutions for the roster.

“I know that they’re working to try to find some backup pieces that will help us out a little bit,” he said.

4 Comments

Go with Wilmer and youth. We need an outfielder. Ruby Tuesday can hang and is better of the bench and this may be Flores niche.

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Johnson plays horrible defense – terrible move if Mets bring him back.

Uribe is terrific mentor and great for the clubhouse, but he’s slow and overweight. and doesn’t belong at second base even though played there several games – and I might add, got hurt playing it.

His best position is third base and coming up big as pinch hitter. but we have no room for him. On five man bench we have two openings that must go for outfield in some fashion.

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I like Wilmer, but I wish bloggers would be more careful throwing out statistics. Baron writes “One area Flores can provide strength in is against left-handed pitching. He posted a .955 OPS against left-handed pitching in 2015.” However, in the previous 2 yrs Flores’ OPS was 381 and 447, respectively. Was WF’s 2015 numbers – which is incredibly high – the product of a small sample (100 ABs) or the reflection of a maturing player. We shall find out.

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Uribe could be a match, but would command perhaps three times the salary of Johnson. The real danger is that The Captain will need long stretches of rest. If so, Uribe is the man. If it is just a matter of day games after night games, then Flores can certainly handle the hot corner. There is no reason Flores can’t start four games a week (2 at 2B against southpaws, 1 at SS and 1 at 3B), and be a primary pinch hitter on the other days. That could amount to 450+ PA. However, if David needs two stints on the DL, Flores there for 2-3 weeks could prove somewhat fatal. Johnson is really a pinch-hitter at this point. Nieuwenhuis has far greater value due to excellent speed and defensive prowess at all three OF spots.

Joel Sherman pens a good piece today that every Mets fan should digest. He has a great line… “Buying a sofa that doesn’t really fit your living room just to prove you will spend is unwise.” He is referring to the call-to-arms by many pundits and fans to sign Cespedes, or other boppers like Justin Upton, just to prove a willingness to spend resources. Lagares is a real CF and Nieuwenhuis delivers the goods with his glove as well. And there are always ways to make adjustments during the last two weeks of July. Right now, lets spend a few dollars on a good bullpen arm like Matt Albers and quality lefty (there are several worth taking a shot at, but the Blevins signing was a step in the left direction).

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