Is it too soon to call Juan Lagares a bust? As of now, that appears the call on the Mets’ 5-year, $23-million deal given to the flashy center fielder after his 2014 Gold Glove Award winning season. He might get a pass because of a bad elbow allowed base runners to take liberties on him.
However, after a summer in which balls were consistently hit over his head and he lost his starting job after the Yoenis Cespedes trade, the Mets go to the Winter Meetings with the idea of obtaining a center fielder to platoon with Lagares. What does that say?
We know the Mets won’t re-sign Cespedes or move Curtis Granderson to center. And, we also know Lagares has a lot of room for improvement at the plate and must stop his defensive regression if he’s to remain in the Mets’ plans.
Working in Lagares’ favor is the contract that will pay him $2.5 million in 2016, $4.5 million in 2017, $6.5 million in 2018 and $9 million in 2019. While that might not be a lot of money for a full time player, it could be too much for a platoon player, and definitely a lot for late-inning defense.
The primary free-agent targets to platoon with the .259-hitting Lagares are Denard Span and Dexter Fowler, both of whom will command a large salaries, and most likely would not accept a platoon situation. Gerardo Parra and Colby Rasmus are corner outfielders, but the Mets have MIchael Conforto and Granderson. And, if you go further down to David Murphy and Will Venable, the Mets might as well stick with Kirk Niewenhuis.
Lagares has not played to the level the Mets want, but the limitations of the market could prohibit a chance. But, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been a bust so far.