The New York Mets enter the 2017 season with questions regarding their captain David Wright, and despite the rumors of moving him to first base, the long-term solution could surprisingly be in left field.
When Ryan Braun was moved from third base to left field in 2008 to make room for Bill Hall, the move was a relatively smooth one. Other notable third baseman who found success moving into the outfield include Kansas City’s Alex Gordon and Toronto’s Jose Bautista. It certainly won’t hurt to try and explore the possibility of giving Wright an outfield glove and take some weight off his throwing shoulder. If his production at the plate can compensate for his defensive flaws, so be it.
With Granderson and Bruce in their walk year, that leaves two positions open next season, which could be filled by Conforto and perhaps Brandon Nimmo. Nimmo has yet to show he can handle big league pitching so that hurts his chances. Moving Cespedes to center, Conforto to right and Wright to left doesn’t sound too bad. The problem with this scenario would be how much of a liability the outfield would be with Cespedes preferring left field over center, Conforto being known more for his bat than his glove, and Wright taking on a position he’s never played before. But if the Mets want to think outside of the box, they could start by keeping him on the field by any means necessary.
Following a 2015 season stymied by Wright being diagnosed with spinal stenosis early in the year, Wright’s 2016 ended on a sour note after undergoing neck surgery in June. Just when the Mets thought they were close to penciling in their captain into the 2017 lineup, Wright was dealt another setback in the form of shoulder impingement in February. Wright managed just four at-bats in Spring.
The 34-year-old Wright will be with the big league club for a few days and then return to Port St. Lucie to complete his rehab, according to The Bergen Record.
If the eventual plan is for Wright to transition to first base, it’s important to address the expectations of a big league first baseman. First baseman are generally known for providing power and run production to the lineup. Wright could serve as a potential liability if and only if the rest of the lineup can make up for it offensively. That’s also if Wright can transition into a serviceable first baseman if and when Lucas Duda exits. First base or any infield position could also present serious problems to Wright’s already hindered back.
Then there’s 21-year-old first baseman Dominic Smith who hit .302 with 14 home runs and 91 runs batted with a .367 on base percentage and .457 slugging percentage last season in Double-A Binghamton per baseball-reference. The display of power in numbers are exactly what the Mets hoped for when they drafted him 11th overall in the 2013 MLB draft. Smith will begin the season in Triple-A, one stop away from the big leagues and it wouldn’t make sense to keep him down there in favor of moving Wright to first base. With Jose Reyes filling in nicely at third, there’s no need to lose Reyes to free agency after this season with the risk of losing Wright to injury again. Another option at third if Reyes doesn’t return next year would be moving Asdrubal Cabrera to third base and calling up Amed Rosario to cover shortstop.
If Wright does see playing time with the big league team this season, the plan appears to be at third if all goes well in rehab. In the meantime the Mets should consider weighing their options with two of their outfielders entering their walk year. There is no reason to rush the captain back, but there are a ton of reasons why he shouldn’t remain at third. The long-term plan should be moving the captain to left field to preserve his already weathered body.
Wright is currently completing a shoulder program with the hopes of throwing across third base soon. He can hit and field and could be a couple weeks away from throwing again, per CBS Sports.