At the start of the 2017 season, the Mets had an almost comical number of outfielders for which to find adequate playing time: Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, and Juan Lagares. Of those five players, Lagares had by far the best defensive profile, but also the least promising offensive potential. By season’s end, he would be the last of that group standing.
Lagares started off the year on the disabled list, having suffered an oblique strain late in Spring Training, which kept him out of action until the second week of the regular season. In mid-June, Lagares broke his thumb making a catch against the Nationals, requiring surgery and landing him on the DL again for nearly two full months.
When he played, Lagares continued his defensive excellence, posting a 10.4 UZR and a .934 Revised Zone Rating. Though he only started 58 games this season, Lagares hit .250/.296/.365, which is eerily close to his career average of .257/.297/.366. Lagares was hitting his best before the thumb injury, and got off to a slow start when returning in August.
While those numbers are not what the Mets hoped a younger Lagares would eventually grow into, coupled with his elite defense, there is a case to be made for Lagares being the everyday center fielder for the team next season, or at least half of a platoon.
Lagares still has two years left—plus a team option for 2020—on his contract, which bought out his arbitration years and his first year of free agency.