The Mets Black Friday: My Player-By-Player Thoughts
Two days ago the New York Mets made a couple of notable acquisitions from what is a weak free agent class (outside of the shortstop position). With these moves, the Mets now have a new 3B, 1B, and CF for the next few years.
Does this really fix them?
Sources: Eduardo Escobar, Mets in agreement on 2-year deal, pending physical. Close to $25M. — Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 26, 2021
Escobar spent the 2021 season between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Milwaukee Brewers and hit to a .253/.314/.472 triple-slash (.786 OPS/109 OPS+) with 28 Home Runs and 90 RBI’s. This helped him to 3.0 oWAR of which are numbers that he’s been consistent with in what is likely his late prime. Escobar first hit 20+ Home Runs in 2017 and has done so in every full season since. During that same stretch he has also kept up a .250(+) batting average and a .750(+) OPS. Discounting his horrid 2020 season, Escobar has hit to a 110 OPS+ since 2017. As a switch-hitter, Escobar is a solid offensive player with good value.
Escobar primarily played third-base (99 games) during the 2021, but he also spent time at second (42), shortstop (18), and technically first base (1). These splits are also consistent since 2018, with 421 games at third base, 79 at second base, 22 at shortstop, and that 1 game at first base. However, while he can be used as a versatile infielder, Escobar also brings just replacement-level defense which brought a -0.4 dWAR in 2021 (and combined -0.1 dWAR since 2018).
Escobar was also selected as an All-Star in 2021, though that was also because the Arizona Diamondbacks needed a representative. So, with all that in place, what do I think?
Entering his age-33 season on a 2-year contract, the New York Mets are likely buying into the final good years of Escobar’s career and should be getting out before the going gets too rough. There is some risk here as Escobar did show that he can be a butcher in 2020 with his 63 OPS+, of which completely tanked his value, though he has been a 2+ bWAR player every other year since 2018. In 2021, the Mets relied heavily on Jonathan Villar to be their third baseman, of which Escobar will be an upgrade, albeit a slight one. At 2/$20-25M though, Escobar could also be a fine utility man if the Mets hit big on third-base prospects Bret Baty (their #2 prospect) or Mark Vientos (their #6 prospect), both of whom may break into the MLB in 2022.
The Mets and Mark Canha have agreed to a two-year deal with a third-year option for a guaranteed total of $26.5M, per source. The deal is pending physical. @JeffPassan and @Joelsherman1 were on it. — Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) November 27, 2021
Canha has spent his entire 7-year career with the Oakland Athletics, originally as a first baseman though quickly moved full-time into the outfield. In 2021, Canha hit to a .231/.358/.387 triple-slash (.746 OPS/111 OPS+) with 17 Home Runs and 61 RBI’s, which was his worst offensive season since 2017. His overall numbers won’t impress after 7 MLB seasons with his just 89 Home Runs and 294 RBI’s, of which is explained by the biggest worry surrounding Canha: playing. Since 2018, Canha has played in 82% of his teams games. However, when he does play, Canha has been a solid above-average bat. Since 2018, he has a combined 124 OPS+ and an OPS over .800.
Now, there is another reason Canha’s market wasn’t bigger, namely his defense. Canha has never had a season with a positive dWAR. This may be due to his moving around the outfield, spending the most time in left field (263 games) then center field (169 games), and right field (109 games). He does also have experience at first base (118 games) but last spent 10+ games at the position in 2019, likely due to the emergence of Matt Olson.
Mark Canha is a quietly good player, having no accolades on his Baseball-Reference page to consider (outside of one Black Ink in 2021 for leading the MLB in HPB), yet has provided on average about 2.0 bWAR of value since 2018.
Entering his age-33 season on a 2-year contract (with an option for a 3rd), the New York Mets have themselves a needed replacement for Dominic Smith/Michael Conforto in the outfield. Canha’s best defensive position (first base) is blocked by Pete Alonso, though he could serve as a back-up if necessary. Canha will also provide the Mets a necessary right-handed bat to balance out their line-up. On a 2/$26.5M deal Canha makes a nice payday while helping to fix a broken Mets offensive outfield. The only question is if he’ll play left or right field in the balanced outfield dimensions of Citi Field. One thing for certain is that he won’t be playing center, because…
Center fielder Starling Marte and the New York Mets are in agreement on a four-year, $78 million contract, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN. The Mets’ big day just got a whole lot bigger as they get the best CF on the market. First with the news was @JonHeyman. — Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 27, 2021
After spending his first 8 years in the MLB with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Starling Marte has bounced around since being traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks before the 2020 season, the Miami Marlins at the 2020 deadline, and the Oakland Athletics at the 2021 deadline. In 2021, Marte hit to a combined .310/.383/.458 triple-slash (.841 OPS/132 OPS+) with 12 Home Runs, 55 RBI’s, and an MLB leading 47 stolen bases. This should be no surprise as Marte has been a great all-around ballplayer since his debut in 2012, hitting to a OPS+ above 110 in every year except his rookie season (102 OPS+, 2012), the season he tested positive for PED’s (89 OPS+, 2017), and the COVID season (107 OPS+, 2020). Since 2018, Marte has combined for a 120 OPS+ and a .817 OPS.
Now, Marte used to be a great fielder in addition to his bat- winning Gold Gloves in 2015 and 2016- but since 2018 has produced to a -0.1 dWAR in the outfield. It’s certainly not bad and his glove makes up for it, though he is no longer a great all-around ballplayer. He has nearly played an equal amount of left field (593 games) and center field (553 games) in his career, though since 2018 Marte has spent all but 3.0 of his combined 3850.0 innings in the outfield at center.
Marte is a 2-time Gold Glove winner (see above) and was an All-Star in 2016, though accolades have passed him by in recent years. Even so, Marte has still combined to a +13.2 bWAR and an average of +3.3 per season since 2018.
Entering his age-33 season, Starling Marte is set to be the New York Mets starting center fielder for the 2022 season and likely beyond which is indicated by his contract at 4/$78M. Marte’s taking over center field allows the Mets to use Brandon Nimmo/Mark Canha in their best outfield alignment, and like Canha Marte’s right-handed bat helps to balance out the Mets offense. It’s a move that makes a lot of sense for the Mets (and helps take away an unnecessary player away from the Yankees) who are trying to go for it in a winnable division.