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2020 Mets takeaways: The infield

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The Mets have more viable major league starters in the infield than there are infield spots.

Atlanta Braves v New York Mets Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With the Mets’ 2020 season in the books, one thing is clear: The team does not lack options in its infield.

At first base, the Mets had two real options for an everyday starter in Dominic Smith and Pete Alonso. With the National League having had the designated hitter this year, it was Smith who saw more time at first base as the season went on, with Alonso serving as a designated hitter in those games. And at the plate, Smith built upon his very good performance in 2019 by hitting .316/.377/.616 with 10 home runs and a 165 wRC+. He didn’t lead the league in doubles, but with 21, he excelled at hitting them.

While Alonso might have looked bad at the plate at times during his sophomore season, he hit .231/.326/.490 with 16 home runs and a 119 wRC+. That’s not ideal, but it’s certainly not terrible, either, even at first base, which had a 108 wRC+ across baseball this year. If the designated hitter stays in the National League next year or permanently, the Mets could choose to play Smith and Alonso every day and put Smith in left field on days that they want to give someone else a day as the DH. If not, they would be looking at playing Smith in left field much more often or having the option of trading one of the two players over the offseason.

Robinson Cano had an excellent year, too, playing second base and hitting .316/.352/.544 with 10 home runs and a 141 wRC+. That was a big bounce back from his subpar production in 2019, his first season with the Mets, during which he hit just 13 home runs and had a 93 wRC+ in 423 plate appearances.

Third base was mostly played by J.D. Davis, who didn’t match his offensive production from 2019 but was still solid. He hit .247/.371/.389 with six home runs and a 117 wRC+. And in the field, he wasn’t perfect but made his fair share of difficult plays at the position. In terms of innings at third base, he was followed by Todd Frazier, who the Mets acquired at the trade deadline at the end of August, and then Jeff McNeil, who spent most of his time in left field with some time at second base and in right field.

Frazier hit a couple of home runs after rejoining the Mets in that trade, but he struggled overall at the plate and presumably doesn’t factor into their offseason plans. McNeil got off to a slow start, but he incredibly strong to end his season with a .311/.383/.454 line with four home runs and a 130 wRC+. As is the case at first base, the Mets could reasonably decide to play either McNeil or Davis at third base on an everyday basis, with McNeil getting the edge should the team get a bona fide center fielder this winter and have its corner outfield spots occupied by Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto on a daily basis.

At shortstop, Andres Gimenez, who was included on the Mets’ Opening Day roster this year despite not having played above Double-A yet in his minor league career, stole the show. Between his excellent defense, good and timely hitting, and ability to steal bases, he was certainly more impressive than Amed Rosario, who took a step back after finishing the 2019 season very strong. Gimenez hit .263/.333/.398 with three home runs, a 105 wRC+, and eight stolen bases in nine attempts. Rosario hit just .252/.272/.371 with four home runs, a 76 wRC+, and no stolen bases—despite having stolen 19 of them last year and 24 the year before that.

Again, the Mets could justify starting either player at the position on an everyday basis moving forward. Right now, you’d hope that role would go to Gimenez, but it would be foolish to write Rosario off entirely, as he’s still just 24 years old. If the team decides to move either player, though, what Luis Guillorme did this year was encouraging in terms of providing a safety net at short. Guillorme only got 68 plate appearances, but he led Mets infielders with a 144 wRC+ thanks to his .333/.426/.439 line while playing mostly at second base with some time at third and a few innings at short.

In terms of team control, the Mets also have plenty of it with all of these players. Cano is under contract through the 2023 season, and the rest of the infield is incredibly inexpensive, meaning the Mets have a ton of breathing room to take on salaries if they so choose. Alonso, McNeil, Gimenez, and Guillorme aren’t even eligible for arbitration yet next year. Smith, Davis, and Rosario are going into their first year of arbitration eligibility, and all seven of those players are under team control for at least the next three seasons.

However the Mets decide to handle things this winter, they don’t lack infielders who can hit. The group certainly can’t be expected to play defense like the late-90s Mets infield did, but even if the Mets did nothing involving infielders over the offseason, they could be confident in its overall performance. That’s a good place from which to start an offseason.