The year is 2014. Transformers: Age of Extinction broke records at the box office. You can’t walk a city block without little girls, women, and grown men singing “Let it Go”. A deadly Ebola outbreak began spreading in West Africa, causing concern and anxiety about a global pandemic. Joffrey Baratheon finally got his comeuppance. Cries of “Black Lives Matter” echo in the streets of St. Louis and New York as the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner go unpunished. Wilfred Tovar is a top prospect in the Mets minor league system.
Signed as an international free agent on October 12, 2007 out of Miranda, Venezuela, Tovar made his professional debut in the now-defunct Venezuelan Summer League and quickly established himself as a glove-first, light-hitting shortstop. Over the next few years, as he would move up the system, it became apparent that that was the true Tovar, and that while his contact-oriented offensive approach had very little upside, he could do wonderful things with his glove and was a premium defender at a premium position. At the end of the 2013 season, after hitting .263/.323/.340 in 133 games with the Binghamton Mets, the 21-year-old Tovar got a cup of coffee with the Mets, appearing in seven games and going 3-for-15 with 1 walk, 3 strikeouts, and a stolen base. The following year, after missing some time due to injury, he hit .282/.345/.345 in 78 games with Binghamton and was rewarded with another brief stint with the Mets that saw him go 0-6 in 2 games with 1 walk, 1 strikeout, and 1 caught stealing.
The light-hitting infielder would never get another chance with the Mets for the remainder of his time in the organization. He spent the entire 2015 season in Las Vegas, and when the season ended, signed with the Minnesota Twins. He played with their Triple-A affiliate, the Rochester Red Wings, for the entire year, not receiving a major league call up. The following year, he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals and spent the next two years playing for their Triple-A affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds, without a big league call up. In 2018, a free agent once again, he signed with the Los Angeles Angels. He spent the entire season that year with their Triple-A affiliate, the Salt Lake Bees, but after starting the 2019 season strong, finally received another big league trial. Appearing in 31 games for the Angels, Tovar hit .193/.239/.253 with 5 walks and 15 strikeouts before being sent back down to the Bees, where he would finish the season. The Minnesota Twins re-signed Tovar following his successful 2019 season, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he did not play professionally in 2020 due to the cancelled minor league season. An upper-minors veteran with experience playing various positions in the infield, Tovar could have conceivably gotten some major league playing time, but he unfortunately contracted the virus himself just as the abbreviated MLB season was beginning.
The Mets are no strangers to nostalgia signings, bringing Juan Lagares, Carlos Gomez, Ruben Tejada, and Rob Whalen back into the fold in 2020. Still just 29-year-old, it is unclear how much Tovar has left in the tank. A defense-first player, all the defensive data that can be mined comes in short bursts and small samples over multiple years, making an already difficult data gathering process even more unreliable. For whatever it is worth, in 46.1 innings in 2013, Tovar had a +1.2 UZR (+32.0 UZR/150); in 3.2 innings in 2014, he had a +0.2 UZR (0.0 UZR/150); in 207.0 innings in 2019, he had a +2.4 UZR (+12.4 UZR/150).
Tovar will spend most, if not all, of the 2021 season with the Mets Triple-A affiliate. Should an injury to a middle infielder arise, he will be an option the Mets will have to plug the hole. It’s just like the early 2010s all over. While we’re at it, let’s bring back GTLing, the Expanded Universe, Words with Friends, and Harambe.