MLB: Miami Marlins at New York Mets

I Don’t Know Is On Third

Don’t get me wrong—I want David Wright back come springtime. I want that Captain magic back, on and off the field; I want, for him as a human to be healed and not in pain. And I want the Mets to be good. Remember 2013 David Wright?—.307/.390/.514—that was so fun! Hell, even 38-game 2015 David Wright batting .289 through the stenosis gave us some clutch postseason runs. But 2016 David Wright, batting .226 across 37 games, was not exactly what the team needed, though he did in fact represent a certain team majority (read: broken).

I know it’s a bit of a sacrilege to speak ill of the Captain, and believe me, it doesn’t bring me any pleasure. But while the rest of Panic City worries about the fate of Yoenis Céspedes (important), Neil Walker’s back (eh), or whether Jay Bruce is, in fact, good (nope), I’m going to multitask some of my anxiety right over to third base. David Wright will be 34 next season, and has played, over the past two seasons combined, a total of 75 games. Even on the off chance that he remains in perfect health for the entirety of 2017, he’ll still need extra rest days for the stenosis. Others have predicted his “productive days are largely over.” But with Wright under contract until 2020, what’s a team to do?

What will probably happen: The Mets’ infield will likely remain a whirlwind rotation as players are introduced, removed, and moved around. Time and again, Terry Collins has shown he’s willing to forego continuity or any semblance of patience by calling up and sending back players for one-night stands at Citi Field. Indications from the current 40-man roster don’t suggest anything different. While we (okay I) perk up at seeing Eric Campbell gone from the list, the Mets infield is still largely in flux—that is, though we have Lucas Duda, Walker, and Wright at the bases, there’s also little hope that all (or any?) of them will go uninjured. This leaves Asdrubal Cabrera alongside a pair of newbie shortstops in Gavin Cecchini and Amed Rosario, and an alternating cast of utilitymen in Wilmer Flores, Matt Reynolds, and T.J. Rivera to pick up the slack. Jose Reyes is also still in play for shortstop and third, though he’ll be 34 years old next season, too. And then, of course, there’s James Loney and his lonely 2016 home run. Sigh. (Editor’s note: Goodbye, James. You will not be missed much.)

We can hope and wish that the majority of the infield stays healthy at any given moment so our best days feature some combination of Duda, Walker, Cabrera, and Wright and a sub on the field, though we all know that’s not how it shook out last year. What worries me about this kind of revolving-door infield is that easy plays become much more difficult when performed by players not used to working with one another—and with this many subs likely to see regular playing time, possible permutations of a crew that has never played with one another outside of practice abound. All those baseball movie clichés about feeling and playing like a team being dependent upon some degree of interpersonal connection are clichés for a reason, and the team is at a disadvantage the more acquaintances must learn one another’s patterns on the fly.

A girl can (pipe)dream: I did it—I spent the afternoon scrolling through free agent third basemen. So sue me. To be honest, the pickings are pretty slim. The Mets rightly have their sights set on Céspedes (and, fingers crossed, a reliever); however, slip with me for a moment into a fantasy in which Justin Turner returns to his old stomping grounds and plays 151 blissfully uninjured games and hits 27 home runs for the Kings of Queens. Or maybe there’s a deal to be made for an aging Aaron Hill, also to be that magic 34 next season, and still slashing .283/.359/.421, or Luis Valbuena, coming off his strongest year yet and slugging at an above-Met-average of .459. Given the far-flung odds, I suppose the logistics of such a deal don’t matter too much. But at the end of the day, I’m still pining for a little bit of consistency on my dance card.

Speaking of pipedreams, I guess the alternate fantasyland we can resort to is that Wright returns as his awesome self at some point next season. Wright himself is hopeful that, despite the extra work he’ll have to do to rehab and maintain his back and neck, he’ll be able to make a return in 2017.

Best case scenario—Wright leaves his December 1 doctor’s appointment with approval to begin baseball workouts. After that, I don’t know.

Photo Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

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