The only familiar feeling about this New York Mets offseason is the desire to upgrade the shortstop position.
Fresh off of their first World Series appearance in 15 years after sitting out the postseason since 2006, the New York Mets are operating under brand new circumstances as the offseason begins. The expectation bar has been raised to a previously unforeseen height, and the status quo will no longer be good enough. The Mets have a starting rotation littered with present and future aces that every other club should be jealous of, but with an offense that is poised to lose its No. 3 hitter in Daniel Murphy and No. 4 in Yoenis Cespedes to free agency, the Mets will need more than dominant pitching to assert their position as one of the National League’s elite teams.
Despite the clear need to lengthen the lineup and still without an obvious long-term answer at shortstop, Ian Desmond should not be a part of New York’s future.
Even before the World Series concluded with the Mets watching the Royals celebrate on the Citi Field infield, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that there was a belief in the industry that New York would be “serious players” for Desmond’s services. Just last week, Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors projected the 30-year-old to land in Flushing on a five-year, $80 million deal, and Desmond’s name continues to be floated as a possible fit for a Mets team that just doesn’t need him.
I don’t see the fit.
Coming off arguably the worst season of his career, Desmond batted a pathetic .233/.290/.384/.674 with 19 home runs and just 62 RBI as one of the leaders on a woefully disappointing Washington Nationals team. Wilmer Flores, who everyone has been trying to replace since the moment he took the field at shortstop, hit .263/.295/.408/.703 with 16 home runs and 59 RBI in 100 fewer at-bats. This is a Mets team that was exposed as too one-dimensional and reliant on the long ball in order to produce runs, and Desmond’s career .312 on-base percentage doesn’t promise to help the cause.
On the other side of the ball, Desmond’s arrival makes even less sense. Pitching is the backbone of this Mets team, and after carelessly overlooking defense in 2015, you, me and Dupree can all be certain that it will be a priority moving forward. Desmond, who has committed an unfathomable 20-plus errors in five of his last six seasons, is not going to help correct a very real issue.
General Manager Sandy Alderson has been both methodical and predictable in his approach to free agency, and there’s little reason to believe that’s suddenly going to change. Sticking to low-risk one- and two-year deals that have had varying levels of success, Alderson figures to again shop in the free agent bargain bin in an attempt to fulfill his team’s needs. Where Alderson has found much more success in acquiring difference-makers has been on the trade market where he’s flush with assets instead of scrapping for pennies. Still with a wealth of pitching built up in the minor leagues, expect the Mets to again be aggressive in pursuing an upgrade using a different form of currency: Prospects.
Without clear answers at either middle infield position, a need for at least one more big bat to a starting nine that really could use two and desperately looking for a consistent bullpen bridge to get the ball to closer Jeurys Familia, the Mets would be better off paying what they owe Bobby Bonilla in full than signing Desmond to a long-term deal. With David Wright (spinal stenosis) a $20 million question mark, the next big money deal the Mets agree upon has to be a slam dunk signing. This talented young starting staff isn’t going to remain at bargain bin prices forever, and each passing season presents a new pressing reality for the Mets to win now. Paying Desmond to become a player he’s never shown to be—at age 30—is a losing bet, and New York is much better off letting another team wager on that gamble. Desmond does nothing to change the short or long-term ceiling of a Mets team firmly on the rise.
The Mets have rightfully walked away from Desmond previously, and there should be nothing to flip the script this time around. A flawed player incapable of playing any role New York needs most, Desmond and the Mets are like oil and vinegar: They just don’t make for a good mix.