On the eve of the 2015 season, the Mets and Juan Lagares agreed to a $23 million extension that runs through 2019. The deal locked up the incumbent Gold Glove winner through his arbitration-eligible years, including a $9.5 million team option for 2020, which would be his first year of free agency. Lagares had a slightly above-average 102 OPS+ in 2014, but his greatest asset was his defense. A human highlight reel, he led center fielders with 28 defensive runs saved, almost double the next best total.
But in 2015, Lagares took a step back both in the field and at the plate. The 26-year-old received the bulk of the starts in center field before the All-Star Game and struggled, hitting just .256/.284/.339 in the first half of the season with 60 strikeouts and only 10 walks.
Lagares played better, in decreased playing time, after the team acquired Yoenis Cespedes and promote Michael Conforto, among other moves. He started just 26 games in 59 appearances in the second half, but he thrived in a platoon role. With the left-handed Conforto getting the bulk of the starts against righties and Lagares facing mostly southpaws, he hit .264/.301/.408 in 134 second-half plate appearances. In the postseason, he went 8-for-23 with two extra-base hits, seven runs scored, and two stolen bases.
In total, Lagares hit .259/.289/.358 with six home runs and an 80 wRC+ in the regular season. His defense also lapsed after a brilliant 2014, as he finished the year with just 2 Defensive Runs Saved a year after finishing with 26. He dealt with an elbow injury all year that clearly hampered his throwing ability, though doctors did not recommend surgery on it following the season.
Lagares is set to make $2.5 million next season, $4.5 million in 2017, $6.5 million in 2018, and $9 million in 2019, his age-30 season. When the Mets extended Lagares they were clearly expecting the Gold Glover who could track down fly balls at an elite level, not a slightly-above-average fielder who was a liability at the plate. It's still unclear which player Lagares will be going forward.
Right now, his role next season appears to be a platoon in center field with Alejandro De Aza. Whether or not De Aza can handle the long side of a platoon in center is another issue entirely, but Lagares should fare well against left-handed pitching.