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 2020.
Currently, the Mets have an objectively strong starting lineup, one with the potential to put above average hitters at every position save shortstop. The bench, on the other hand, is a totally different matter. Jake Marisnick, Dom Smith, and one of Tomas Nido or Rene Rivera currently project as locks, and Luis Guillorme seems likely to earn a spot as the backup shortstop. Jed Lowrie and Yoenis Cespedes are also in the picture, but relying on either to be healthy for more than five minutes would be foolhardy. Going any further down the depth chart reveals a total lack of depth and reinforces the need for another addition to the bench.
Enter Scooter Gennett. Gennett debuted with the Brewers in 2013 and was excellent for half a season, but regressed in 2014 and could never duplicate his initial success in Milwaukee. The Reds claimed Gennett off waivers ahead of the 2017 season and something clicked, as he became one of the premier bats at second base for a two year stretch. Over roughly 1100 plate appearances, Gennett slugged 50 home runs and ran a 124 wRC+, trailing only Jose Altuve and Jose Ramirez among second baseman.
Unfortunately, 2019 was an unmitigated disaster. Gennett suffered a serious groin injury in spring training and struggled to get back on the field for the first half of the season. When he finally did make it back to game action, he looked like a shell of his former self, lacking the power and plate discipline that had made him a solid contributor over the previous two seasons. The Reds traded him to the Giants basically for free, and the Giants released him less than a month later. Gennett posted a ghastly 44 wRC+ in only 139 PA, striking out in almost 30% of his plate appearances and managing only two home runs in the year of the juiced ball.
Despite coming off what could politely be described as a horrible season, it seems strange that Gennett has lingered on the free agent market for this long. He’s not over the hill at 29, and it seems more likely that lingering injury issues caused most of his struggles last year rather than a sudden loss of all his baseball skills. If healthy (and that’s a notable and unknowable if for the public), Gennett profiles as an excellent bounceback candidate, one who should come fairly cheaply at this point of the offseason.
Admittedly, Gennett doesn’t fit the hole on the Mets’ bench perfectly. He’s spent nearly all of his career at second base, appearing only briefly at third and in the outfield in 2017. He’s a left handed batter with a notable (though not unplayable) platoon split, which is less than ideal on a roster already full of left hand batters. Perhaps most importantly, Gennett would be signed as a healthier alternative to Jed Lowrie, an inapt description of his profile given his issues last season.
Even with those concerns, there’s still an argument that Gennett is one of the best remaining options in a thin free agent pool. Brock Holt might be the one definitely superior player, but he lacks Gennett’s offensive ceiling, is older, and will likely cost much more. Other options, like Wilmer Flores, Brad Miller, Matt Duffy, or Jordy Mercer are worse with the bat, the glove, or both. And while Gennett doesn’t have much time at third, he’d certainly be a stronger defender than current backup J.D. Davis, and a better bat than third-stringer Luis Guillorme.
In short, Gennett has the best risk-reward profile of basically any free agent hitter left on the market. That alone makes him a worthwhile gamble as reinforcement for the back-end of a weak bench, even if his defensive versatility isn’t ideal. As a low-cost option, Gennett would make for a solid last move of the offseason.