David Wright is having a bad year. The veteran third baseman is on pace to tally the worst full-season statistical year of his major league career. Whether his lack of production is the result of an ailing shoulder, which he has denied, or a four-month slump and will turn it around in short order, it's possible that this is the hitter Wright will be for the foreseeable future. If Wright does not turn things around by the end of September, what does this mean for the Mets moving forward?
The Mets rank 24th in baseball in runs scored this year. Put simply, the team's offense is broken. Wright alone accounts for about 20 percent of the team's total payroll this year. For the Mets to be successful and competitive, he must succeed. He must also be put into a position to succeed.
It would, however, be extremely unfair to blame David Wright for the shortcomings of the offense. One hitter an offense does not make, and he is but a cog—albeit a very expensive cog—in this 25-man roster. For the purpose of this exercise in assuming that Wright maintains his current pace of production, how can the Mets best utilize Wright in the future?
Perhaps David Wright should no longer be hitting third. His current production is simply not consistent with that of a third hitter. He is neither hitting the ball with authority nor driving in runs, both things that a competitive team expects from its number three hitter. But his production and skill set would do a fine job if he was hitting in a place in the batting order where there were different expectations. The most optimal place for Wright to hit is second, but Daniel Murphy has that spot in the order locked down.
Dropping Wright down in the order to the fifth spot makes little sense. Even without much power, he is still one of the best hitters on the team, and over the long run the Mets would be better suited by giving him more at-bats. The most logical position for him in the batting order as this team is currently constructed is leadoff.
Curtis Granderson has been doing an admirable job in filling in at that spot, but he is the only other batter other than Lucas Duda who poses any power threat and should be in a position to drive in runs on a more consistent basis. Switching Wright with Granderson could be just what the doctor ordered.
Batting leadoff, Wright would have a different job. No longer will he be relied on to hit for power and drive in runs. He would be able to re-focus on what has always been perhaps his best skill: getting on base. This season, his walks are down, and his strikeouts are up. It is plausible to think that he is pressing, and he has admitted recently that much of his struggles are mental. It also may be posited that he is trying to do something that he no longer is capable: hit the ball over the fence with regularity.
If the Mets plan on keeping Daniel Murphy this offseason, it would be advantageous to give Wright an extended run in the leadoff spot from now until the end of the season. This would enable the Mets to put their two most potent power bats third and fourth in the order while keeping two hitters with high on-base percentages hitting in front of them.