Welcome to One Last Move, where our writers pitch a move to the Mets that would close out their off-season and make the team better in 2019.
Marwin Gonzalez remains unsigned less than one week before position players are set to report to spring training, which is pretty hard to believe. Nobody is going to confuse Gonzalez with Manny Machado or with Bryce Harper. He is not a former MVP or All Star. However, Gonzalez would be a valuable asset to a team that’s hoping to contend, especially one hoping to add a solid offensive presence without breaking the bank. The New York Mets check off all of those boxes.
I will give Brodie Van Wagenen credit for recognizing the team’s depth deficiency and working diligently to address the problem. He has made strides in improving the team’s infield and adding some reliable arms to the bullpen. However, one area of the team that remains suspect with respect to depth is the outfield. Despite adding guys like Keon Broxton, Rajai Davis, and Gregor Blanco, the team is still thin in the outfield, especially given the possibility that Yoenis Cespedes will not play a game in 2019. The x-factor is Jeff McNeil, who has not played a whole lot of outfield in the minors but who appears destined to spend a majority of his time there after the Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie acquisitions.
The Mets are essentially another Juan Lagares injury away from being in a similar predicament that has haunted them in the past. If Michael Conforto or Brandon Nimmo suffer any sort of injury, or if they fail to take the next step in their careers, the outfield could become a glaring weak spot for a team that sees itself as a legitimate National League East contender. Of the remaining options — not named Harper — that could immediately remedy this situation, Gonzalez is at the top of the list.
In addition to the outfield, the team also has question marks around first base. While it’s conceivable that Peter Alonso could make the club out of spring training or, at the very least, by the end of April, there are no guarantees there. If Alonso were to need more time, the team’s best option is Todd Frazier — who did not appear at the position last season and posted a 93 wRC+ and a .693 OPS. After that, the team would rely heavily on J.D. Davis or on Dom Smith, neither of whom instill a whole lot of confidence. Gonzalez could present a potential solution there as well.
Marwin Gonzalez could become Lowrie 2.0 for the Mets. Whereas Lowrie would serve as the utilityman at second, short, and third, Gonzalez could fill the first base and outfield role. He appeared at every position – aside from catcher and pitcher – for the AL West Champion Houston Astros last season and, with the exception of shortstop (-5 DRS, -30.6 UZR/150), he played average or better defense at each position. His best work came in left field, where he finished 2018 with a 6 DRS and a 12.6 UZR/150 in 73 games. Gonzalez would go a long way towards helping Van Wagenen eliminate “ifs”, something he alluded to earlier this offseason.
Offensively, Gonzalez is a switch hitter who enjoyed a solid season at the plate for Houston, although he fell far short of his breakout 2017 campaign. In 145 games and 552 plate appearances, he finished with a .247/.324/.409 slash line with 16 home runs, a .162 ISO, a 104 wRC+, which was good for a 1.6 fWAR. The previous season, he set career heights in every offensive category, finishing with a .303/.377/.509 slash line with 23 home runs, a .226 ISO, a 144 wRC+, and a 4.0 fWAR while finishing top-20 in the AL MVP race. Over the last five seasons, he’s put up a .271/.328/.438 slash line with 70 home runs, a 111 OPS+, and a 111 wRC+ while posting an 8.7 fWAR.
A play for Gonzalez would likely depend on what kind of deal he would receive. Earlier this offseason, Jon Heyman predicted that he would make $13 million annually over four years, with other experts estimating a similar result. While it would not make sense for the Mets to make that deal, a one-year or two-year contract — similar to what Lowrie received — could make sense for both sides. Gonzalez will turn 30 before Opening Day but is still young enough and, given the deal it would likely take to bring him in, it is a worthwhile gamble for the Mets while helping them building one of the deepest benches in the league.