Finding Our Third Basemen Homes

There is plenty of talk about finding a position for Daniel Murphy next season as his "bat is just too good not to be in the lineup."  He has been shown by most defensive metrics to adequate if not adept at most the positions he has played (in the infield).  However, at each position that he was passable at he has some impediment to his becoming the full time starter.  

At 1B in 2009 and 2011 Daniel Murphy showed himself to be an excellent defender, ranking in the highest echelons of defensive metrics for the position.  However, as 1B is such a heavy hitting position as near to the top as he was defensively his offensive performance was that close to bottom for first basemen.  This season his bat has been much more potent but still would be only middle of the pack for the position.  Which would be fine, if he weren't blocked by a player, ike Davis, who is at least his equal defensively, and perhaps a top tier offensive threat to boot.  
At 2B the defensive metrics were kinder to his abilities out there than anyone who watched him extensively would be.  He was mechanical and awkward, and often locked up mentally and made very strange plays. However, even if he was the sub par defensive player our eyes suggest he might be, the move to second does wonders for his bat.  His 123 wRC+ would make him the 6th best offensive second basemen in baseball and second best in the NL.  This seems like the most logical position as with Ike Davis, Jose Reyes, and David Wright the Mets would potentially field an infield of players in the top 5 wRC+ at their respective positions.  This may ultimately be the way to go and it certainly would be a no brainer if it weren't for the fact that in playing the position for no more than 50 games he has been injured twice on plays unique to second base.  This might be a fluke and I hope it is because I would love to see Murphy get comfortable enough to be a slugging second basemen for some time. However, that it might not be a aberration should also be considered.  Murphy is not graceful or balletic and his mechanical movements may be part of this problem.  At the very least know that every Philadelphia Phillie or Atlanta Brave on every double play would come barreling at the poor guys knees and it only takes one to end a season as Murphy knows twice too well.  Additionally, the Mets will soon have three prospects vying for that spot (if the Mets retain Reyes) as Ruben Tejada, Jordanny Valdespin and Reese Havens all figure to be 2B candidates for the future.  
In the outfield there is no kind assessment of Daniel Murphy's defensive abilities.  The metrics think he is awful, and any fan could see that he gets bad reads and has a hard time tracking anything out there.  Additionally, no matter where you put him in the outfield there is likely to be another poor fielding outfielder out there in Lucas Duda or Jason Bay (or *gasp* both!).  Even with a great fielding center fielder (Pagan, at least at times) there is just too much Citi Field outfield grass to cover if you flank him with two slow footed natural infielders.  I think that while this would get Murphy into the lineup it would detract from his overall value enough that unlike at 2B where he would be among the league leaders in WAR, in LF he would be little more than a 1 win upgrade on Jason Bay, and if bat regresses even marginally he might be no better at all.
At 3B, the position that Daniel Murphy came up through the Mets system playing is not surprisingly the position he is most comfortable playing.  The stiff awkward defender he is elsewhere on the diamond seldom shows up when he at the hot corner.  While he is no Adrien Beltre he looks to my eye (and the defensive Metrics agree) like an above average third baseman.  His bat plays at the position as well, similar to 2B he would be the second best NL third baseman and top 5 in baseball among those that qualify this season.  However, one of those that doesn't have enough at bats to qualify is the face of the franchise and the better-offensively-even-in-a-down-year; David Wright.  So Daniel Murphy is screwed right?  Doomed to become a super sub?  Actually probably yes... 
...but then again maybe not if we think a little out of the box and ask a different question:  Can we find David Wright a position?

David Wright has had two seasons as an above average fielder during his offensive peak, two as a below average fielder at the beginning of his career, and two most recently as the worst fielding third basemen in baseball.  This season while he got himself quickly into the negative -10 UZR range that earned him worst fielder 2 years running he may yet lose his crown.  He will remain though one of top 5 worst fielders at the position and his double digit negative UZR would be at the bottom of any position.  Furthermore his UZR/150 of -24 is third worst in league for anyone with over 500 innings at any position.  UZR is flukey and small sample sizes can throw it off but this is now approaching 400 games of putrid defense.  Even factoring in his good seasons, overall his defense at the position for his career has been the fourth worst since 1998 by rate, and he has the second most cumulative negative UZR over that span.  He may be the Mets best third basemen ever, among best third basemen (offensively) of all time but he is actually pretty bad at the business of defending third base. 
In Murphy the Mets have an above average fielding, top 5 hitting third basemen currently on their roster.   In Zack Lutz they may another or at least a potential back up/platoon mate (his minor league equivalency is above league average).  Nick Evans, Justin Turner and Joshua Satin all also have experience at third and yet no position in the 2012 starting lineup.  And then the Mets have David Wright, a bat that would be an asset at any position and yet plays historically bad defense at third.  This seems like a mismanagement of resources and not the optimal way to align a defense. If David Wright is this bad in his prime, what happens if loses a step? A move off third will be necessary at some point, perhaps if the Mets want to get the most out of their lineup and their defense they might have to consider moving Wright to another position sooner rather than latter.  But where?
Some Suggestions:
RF: David Wright steals 20+ bases in a year so he can't be too lead footed, nor can it be possible for someone who has 20+ of playing the sport to be as epically bad at getting reads off bats as Daniel Murphy.  Lucas Duda to left where he has far more minor league experience, Bay to Bench.   LF: David Wright is not an improvement to Duda in right and so we hide his poor defense in left. He's bad but no worse than he was at his former position and the infield is full of plus defenders.  Duda in Right, Bay to Bench.
CF: Anything Bay can do Wright can do 5 times better, right?
1B: David Wright takes over first base where his instincts at the hot corner make him great at robbing doubles down the line, charging bunts, etc and the lack of throwing cuts his errors in half.  Ike Davis a sometime outfielder (and pitcher) in college with a rocket arm moves to right, Duda to left, Bay to purgatory. 
2B: David Wright takes over second base and takes to it, no more long or rushed throws and suddenly he is Chase Utley circa 2009.  Or maybe not and he something between a 2008 and 2009 Dan Uggla
SS:  Who needs Reyes. I saw 2 innings of flawless SS from Wright and I'm convinced
C: Why not? Piazza couldn't make the throw from home to second and he had a career there.

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any vetting or approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions, reasoning skills, or attention to grammar and usage rules held by the editors of this site.

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