Yoenis Cespedes is close to returning from the disabled list, and that’s good news for the Mets. Unfortunately, the news may not be so good for Curtis Granderson. The fourth-year Met is increasingly being described as the “odd man out” of a potentially crowded outfield, and will likely see less playing time once Cespedes returns.
What makes Granderson’s situation interesting is that he was actually one of the Mets’ better players last month. After a brutal April, Granderson hit .273/.363/.511 (132 wRC+) with three home runs and 13 RBIs in May. That’s more production than the Mets got from Jay Bruce (94 wRC+), Jose Reyes (66 wRC+), and Rene Rivera (99 wRC+). Meanwhile, Granderson’s on-base percentage rose by nearly 100 points, his slugging percentage by nearly 150 points, and his OPS by more than 200 points since the end of April.
Granderson has a history of slow starts followed by torrid stretches as the spring turns to summer. Throughout this career, Granderson is a .231/.322/.447 (106 wRC+) hitter in March and April. He then improves to .260/.342/.486 (121 wRC+) in May and a terrific .280/.364/.492 (129 wRC+) in June. Given that his production is following a similar trajectory this year, it’s fair to ask whether now—just as the calendar turns to June—is the best time to bench Granderson.
On the flip side, Granderson simply hasn’t been as good as he’s been in years past. The outfielder’s .128/.174/.221 batting line in April produced just a 5 wRC+. That’s not only the lowest mark of his career, but the second-lowest mark in all of baseball that month. Granderson’s overall production (.201/.273/.368, 71 wRC+) is also weak, especially by his standards.
It’s tempting to keep Granderson in the lineup in the hope that he can complete his midseason turnaround. Unfortunately for Granderson, the numbers are simply not in his favor. When Cespedes returns to the Mets’ lineup, it’s likely that he, Bruce, and Michael Conforto will get the bulk of the playing time based on their production this year. For those who would consider moving Bruce to first and benching Lucas Duda, remember that Duda is hitting .250/.371/.558, good for a 143 wRC+. In other words, Duda’s playing time should not be in jeopardy.
The Mets’ abundance of left-handed hitters makes Granderson an unnatural platoon option. Instead, the outfielder will likely spell Cespedes and Bruce on their occasional days off.
Were Granderson to become the team’s fourth outfielder, he would probably get a couple starts a week against righties. Granderson could also provide the Mets with some valuable power off the bench as a pinch hitter. Given his age, his struggles, and the fact that he’s in the last year of his contract, however, it’s unlikely that Granderson would bring much back in a trade. It seems that the Mets’ best course of action would be to use Granderson strategically and hope that he continues to improve, albeit in a somewhat more limited role.