The Mets lineup is in shambles right now. Jerry Manuel isn’t helping with his decisions to play Gary Matthews Jr over Angel Pagan or the way he’s arranging his lineup. However, the problems extend beyond Jerry. Any team which is running Alex Cora and Mike Jacobs/Fernando Tatis along with already weak catchers and pitchers is going to struggle to score runs. The Mets have the top tier talent which a team needs but they have too many sub-par players surrounding them to have any kind of consistency.
This magnifies Jerry’s weaknesses as a manager. When you have five above average major league hitters available to you (Wright, Reyes, Bay, Francoeur, Pagan) it’s a really glaring mistake to keep one of them on the bench. Especially considering the fact that Pagan is also better defensively than Gary Matthews Jr. If the Mets want to keep afloat until Carlos Beltran returns they must play Angel Pagan every day in CF. I’m taking that as a given, it’s been written about, and I’m not going to bother writing about it again.
What I want to suggest is that the Mets think outside the box and continue to give themselves the best chance to score runs and win baseball games even after Beltran returns. In order to do that they must do two things right now.
- Think outside the box
- Start teaching someone how to play 1B
The Mets need to realize that Pagan needs to be in the every day lineup. They need to realize that between Daniel Murphy, Fernando Tatis and Mike Jacobs they do not have one batter who is worthy of playing 1st base.
The solution to both of these problems is to start teaching one of their outfielders how to play first base.
Seniority would dictate that Pagan start learning how to play first base. This was my first instinct because he’s the one I’m trying to find a position for. However, thanks to Pagan’s flexibility (he can play any of the outfield positions and is pretty good at all three) it becomes a much more open competition. In fact, Pagan’s quickness would be wasted at 1B.
It’s time to turn to Jason Bay who is, by all reports, a very good dude. Who the Mets just gave $66 million dollars to. Whose left field defense is not the strongest part of his game (although I think UZR might have him a little underrated.) It’s time to get Jason Bay a first baseman glove and teach him how to play first base.
Now, I’m not saying to make this change permanent, although it would be a great option to have as Bay gets older during his contract, but the way the Mets are built this year this move makes the most sense to me. It would improve the club both offensive (Pagan over the current first base options) and defensively (Pagan over Bay in left field, Bay probably won’t be much of a downgrade from any of the current first base option because none of them are all that good defensively.)
This obviously depends a lot on Bay, and if he is uncomfortable giving it a shot you can’t risk it. But he’s a gamer and by all accounts he is a good clubhouse guy who wants to help his team win. I hope he’d be willing to do it. He’s got over a month until Beltan comes back and he should be using it to learn first base. If he’s unwilling I think Pagan would be willing because I’m sure he craves more playing time, something he rightfully deserves.
If the Mets think outside the box they can put a pretty good lineup out there. Look at it and tell me it doesn’t seem like a big upgrade (note the order is flexible, Pagan could bat 2nd pretty easily, especially if Castillo needs days off):
- SS Jose Reyes
- 2B Luis Castillo
- 3B David Wright
- CF Carlos Beltran
- 1B Jason Bay
- RF Jeff Francoeur
- LF Angel Pagan
- C Rod Barajas
That is a lineup I would pay to see. The Mets have limited talent to work with and they must find a way to get all the production out of it which they can. Barring a trade, this is the best way.
Edit: Due to some comments I got I think I should add this note. I’m not sure if this is the BEST they could do by thinking outside the box. There’s a lot of info I’m not privy to. Is Bay willing to try 1B? Is he able to play acceptably there if he tries? Are the Mets willing to consider using Chris Carter or even Ike Davis?
The main point is that they have limited resources right now. They have to find a way to use these limited resources more efficiently and having one of your good hitters sitting on the bench is not the way. If they don’t think outside the box this is going to be a bad season for them.
They’ve got a month or two until Beltran comes back. Now is the time to start figuring out what to do when that happens. You can’t just sit back, relax and say you’ll decide then. Now is the time to start playing around with creative ideas.