Welcome to One Last Move, where our writers pitch a move to the Mets that would close out their offseason and make the team better in 2019.
While general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has done a solid job in his first offseason in the front office, there’s always room for one more move. With the Manny Machados and Bryce Harpers of the world being a bit out of the Mets’ reach for some garbage reason, a realistic final move would have to be on a smaller scale. No, not Dallas Keuchel either, think smaller please. If you have brought yourself down to a small enough scale, you might’ve ended up with Derek Dietrich’s name in your head.
Derek Dietrich may not be the most sexy move that Van Wagenen could make, header image aside, but he can still be a useful piece of the puzzle that is the 2019 Mets. Non-tendered by the Marlins this past November, Dietrich spent all six seasons of his major league career playing in Miami.
In his career, Dietrich has occupied almost every position on the diamond for Miami except for shortstop, center field, pitcher, and catcher. Last season alone, he appeared in left field and right field along with stints at first, second, and third base. While he isn’t Ozzie Smith or Andruw Jones in the field, his ability to merely play at these positions is valuable. Besides, when have the Mets ever cared about sub-par defense?
The real value with bringing in Derek Dietrich is his consistently above-average hitting ability. In the past four seasons, Dietrich hasn’t played less than 90 games, and in the past three, he hasn’t played less than 128. The one thing that stayed true through all those years was bat. Since his first real full-ish season in 2015, Dietrich has put up wRC+ numbers of 122, 121, 102, and 109. His 109 mark last season wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire, but the only member of the 2018 Mets that had more plate appearances and a higher wRC+ than Dietrich was Michael Conforto. Over at Baseball-Reference, the only Mets players who played full seasons and surpassed Dietrich’s 2.2 Offensive WAR were Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and Amed Rosario. In smaller samples, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jeff McNeil also crossed the 2.2 plateau.
One positive to signing Dietrich would be getting him out of Marlins Park, a venue where he has had immense struggles through the years. In 2017 he had a .699 OPS at home which went down even more to a paltry .643 OPS for the 2018 season. Away from the green hues of Miami’s walls, Dietrich is a completely different player. Two years ago, he swung his way to an .100 point improvement, going from .699 at home to .799 away. The big jump came just this past season. While his .643 OPS in Marlins Park was more like something you’d see from a slugging pitcher, his .859 OPS everywhere else is a much more palatable number. If Dietrich can manage a 109 wRC+ while hitting like 2016 Noah Syndergaard in half of his at bats, a boost into the .700s can give the Mets a surprisingly solid bat. Now, you may be asking what causes these Yuniesky Betancourt-esque numbers in the confines of Miami and unfortunately, I don’t have any good answers for you. I have a few bad ones capped off by some variation of “That’s Baseball, Suzyn”, but the in-depth analysis behind Dietrich’s tropical struggles is beyond me.
On the flip-side, I can tell you that Derek Dietrich absolutely crushes everything in his path at Citi Field. Since the start of the 2016 season, Dietrich has stepped into the Citi Field batter’s box 70 times. Over those 70 plate appearances, he has a pretty solid 1.086 OPS and a wRC+ floating near 200. Unless he turns to some highly questionable substances, it’s fairly unlikely that Dietrich will keep those numbers up, but even in such a small sample, a 1.086 OPS in a potential new home is a reassuring figure.
A roundabout way in which Dietrich can bring value to the Mets could come in the form of taking at bats from other, less offensively inclined, players such as Keon Broxton and J.D. Davis who sported wRC+ figures of 84 and 36, respectively. Perhaps, using these players to act as late-game defensive substitutions for Dietrich wouldn’t be too bad of a plan since you’d be able to get Dietrich’s offensive ability while still getting some value out of Davis and Broxton’s defense just in case things get hairy in the late-game.
In what might be the most popular part of signing Dietrich, at least for the Mets’ bank account, is the fact that he will probably come extremely cheap. Since he was granted free agency back around Thanksgiving, there has been virtually zero buzz surrounding him in connection with any of the other 29 teams in the big leagues. If he can be had on a minor league deal, that’s just the cherry on top.