The Mets made a transaction on Tuesday afternoon (no not that one), as they sent third baseman Todd Frazier to the 10-day DL with a left hamstring strain. This move provides an opportunity for an uptick in playing time for both Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes, but only one of these infielders should be the beneficiary of the vacancy at third.
On Tuesday, Reyes got the first shot, and continued his brutal start to the 2018 campaign with an 0-for-4. This was just his seventh start of the season, and it’s likely that Callaway gave Reyes the opportunity to give him time to work through his early season struggles. While I understand the logic behind it, the decision to let Reyes continue to die on the vine out there makes the bottom of the Mets order a walk in the park for opposing pitchers.
There is no guarantee that more at-bats will get Reyes right offensively. He’s nearly 35 years old, and his decent second half of 2017 was the result of a lot of batted-ball luck. Reyes’ career BABIP is .307, but in the second half of 2017, he had a clearly anomalous .323 BABIP. He has now come crashing down to Earth, with no indication he’ll be much better than he’s already been. And we’ve been over this before, but at this point in his career, he is truly an awful defender.
Flores isn't going to win any Gold Gloves at third, but he should be getting all of Frazier’s at-bats while he’s recovering. Not only is he hitting much better than Reyes currently (.234/.319/.438), but unlike Reyes, the holes in Flores' game could theoretically close with more AB's.
Wilmer has traditionally struggled against right-handed pitching, but at just 26-years-old, there’s reason to believe he can continue to improve. His improvement from 2016 to 2017 against righties is significant (.232/.289/.353 to .262/.306/.459), and if there’s another level that Flores can theoretically get to, it’s well worth the Mets time to give him as many AB’s against righties as possible.
Reyes is a known (and bad) quantity, and we have no reason to believe he’ll either improve the team in the short term or work out of his slump in the long term. Flores still has the potential to grow if given more opportunities, and the brief loss of Frazier is the perfect time to force-feed him AB’s. The answer is clear: Flores gets the starts, Reyes keeps his butt glued to the bench.
Photo credits: Rich Graessle-Icon Sportswire