The six-hole in Queens is a spot that the club has reportedly attempted to upgrade multiple times this offseason.
First, there was talk of a potential match with the Cubs for Starlin Castro, but the two sides reportedly didn’t see eye-to-eye on the shortstop’s value. Then, the Mets front office balked when Arizona demanded Noah Syndergaard in return on a deal for Didi Gregorius. Alexei Ramirez and Jimmy Rollins were briefly considered potential targets, but negotiations with the White Sox and Phillies failed to gain traction. The free agent market for shortstops has dried up with Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie and Stephen Drew all inking new contracts, and Mike Puma of the NY Post tweeted on Tuesday that the club has no plans to pursue Japanese shortstop Takashi Toritani.
There’s also the often-mentioned yet remote possibility of Troy Tulowitzki becoming a Met. Such a deal appears to be dead for the time being, according to Matthew Cerone of SNY.tv. Previous reports have indicated that the chances of a Tulowitzki blockbuster were slim and Cerrone writes that people close to the Rockies have told him that the club won’t trade Tulowitzki until he shows that he is fully recovered from his mid-August hip surgery.
With few options remaining, general manager Sandy Alderson told the Post yesterday that “nothing is likely to occur” regarding a shortstop acquisition and he believes “at this point that we will go into spring training with what we have at shortstop.” That leaves Wilmer Flores likely to start the season as the starting shortstop with Ruben Tejada expected to play second fiddle.
Flores hasn’t lived up to offensive expectations in 375 plate appearances with the big-league squad but the minor-league track record at the plate is too strong to write off the 23-year-old’s bat. Flores managed a .664 OPS last season, just below the league average at the position, and should be able to hold his own with consistent playing time — something the Mets have not given him during his stints in the Big Apple the last two seasons.
The bigger concern regarding Flores is his lack of range on the dirt. Most scouts envisioned the Venezuelan’s limited lateral quickness and instincts at the position mandating a move to either second base or a corner spot, but New York’s dearth of alternative options at the position will force them to run out the questionable double play tandem of Flores and Daniel Murphy. Such an up-the-middle defense will do no favors for a rotation featuring four starters (Harvey, Wheeler, deGrom, Niese) who generate groundballs at an above-average rate.
Earlier this week, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald tweeted that the Marlins had checked in on Ichiro Suzuki as a backup outfield option. Ichiro would make sense for Miami, who currently carry just three outfielders and five left-handed hitters on their 40-man roster. According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the Marlins may have some competition in the market for the 41-year-old:
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 7, 2015
Baltimore has been in need of bolstering their outfield corps after losing both Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis to free agency. They’ve been connected to Colby Rasmus and Nori Aoki on the free agent market and have recently “engaged in trade talks” with the Dodgers about Andre Ethier, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Ichiro would likely be a cheaper alternative should the Birds fail to land one of the other left-handed bats.
The Blue Jays filled the hole left by the departure of Melky Cabrera by trading for Michael Saunders, but could still use some additional depth in the outfield. The case can certainly be made that Toronto’s current fourth outfielder, Kevin Pillar, is a better option than Ichiro at this point in their respective careers; initial PECOTA runs project Pillar to be more than 20 points of True Average better than Ichiro and the 26-year-old can be called upon to play center field if needed. However, Dalton Pompey has fewer than 50 major-league plate appearances to his name and both Saunders and Jose Bautista have had their share of injuries in the past, so it’s understandable that the Blue Jays would want to consider additional insurance.