Alejandro de Aza was a typical Sandy Alderson signing during an atypical time. Signed to a one-year, $5.75 million contract, he’s of the same ilk as Chris Young was in 2014 and John Mayberry Jr. in 2015, both of whom failed to finish their seasons in Queens. However, de Aza was signed to primarily serve as the Mets’ everyday center fielder, with the expectation at the time that Yoenis Cespedes would sign elsewhere. But intense public pressure and a shrinking market pushed Cespedes back into the Mets’ arms and de Aza was relegated to a bench role.
The beginning of de Aza’s season was utterly dreadful. Making just 32 plate appearances and six starts in April, de Aza hit .207/.281/.345 with just six hits, including a double and home run. He managed to draw three walks, which kept his on-base percentage relatively high compared to his batting average, but still struggled in a limited role. He found most of his playing time after Cespedes bafflingly jumped into the stands for an uncatchable foul ball and injured his leg.
May and June for de Aza were even worse. The 32-year-old lefty hit .190/.227/.190 in May and—hold on to your hats—.111/.167/.178 in June. In 66 combined at-bats during this span, de Aza slumped to nine hits, three of which happened to be doubles. His abysmal .344 OPS in June nearly cost him his spot on the team, which would have sent him the way of Young and Mayberry.
But de Aza flipped a swtich in July, posting the sixth-highest OPS in the NL among batters with at least 40 plates appearances at 1.031. He notched 12 hits in the month, hitting .375/.500/.531 with two doubles and a home run. By the end of July, de Aza was starting regularly, as Cespedes injured his quad right before the All-Star break and attempted to play through it. Cespedes ultimately landed on the disabled list, and while de Aza’s production dropped off in August, he still made the most of his playing time.
While de Aza was filling in for the Mets’ injured star, h started 17 games in August. Even though he hit .164/.265/.329 that month, he hit three home runs and had 14 RBIs (he finished the season with six and 25, respectively). By the time September rolled around, de Aza had earned enough goodwill to keep his roster spot.
September and October saw de Aza’s numbers creep back up a bit, as he hit .265/.366/.353 in the final stretch of the season. He finished the season with a .205/.297/.321 line and the highest walk rate of his career, but a measly -0.2 fWAR. He made the Wild Card roster, though he wasn’t used in the Mets’ 3-0 loss to the Giants. Now a free agent, de Aza looks unlikely to return to New York with the current glut of outfielders, but his 2016 was a relative success—however small—compared to the misfortunes of Young and Mayberry.