Looking at the Mets roster right now, the team’s position player depth is defined by the presence of three players: Robinson Canó, JD Davis, and Dominic Smith. As currently constructed, the DH spot figures to be a rotation of those three players based on matchups and whomever Buck Showalter deems the “hot hand” any given day, with the other two usually on the bench.
There are certainly worse hitters you can rotate through the DH spot, and it’s not unreasonable to still expect any of those three to be difference-making offensive players for the Mets this year. The problem is that triumvirate requires three precious roster spots, and of the three, only Smith can really play the field, and only at first base. The other two are ideally DH-only bats. In a world where every Mets starter plays most of the season healthy, that’s not a big deal. But in the real world, that is not going to happen. In the real world, the Mets built several contingencies into their roster last year and still wound up giving the third-most PAs on the team to Jonathan Villar. So when guys inevitably start getting hurt, it’ll create some logistical problems for the Mets.
Sure, Smith can stand in left field, the 39-year-old Canò can probably still play second, and Davis can man third, but none of those three scenarios are things a team with World Series aspirations should be willing to put up with for a long period of time. Most frighteningly, a lineup with all three of them in the field does not seem impossible right now, either, and that’s an alignment that might rival the Phillies’ current defense for the worst in baseball.
As it stands right now, Smith is probably the fourth outfielder, Canò is the primary backup second baseman, and Davis is the backup third baseman. The flexibility of Eduardo Escobar to move to second or third and Luis Guillorme off the bench does give the Mets some options, and the availability of Nick Plummer, Travis Jankowski, or Khalil Lee in the outfield is something to consider. Ideally, though, you don’t actually want a scenario where the light-hitting Guillorme and Jankowski or the unproven Plummer or Lee are suddenly written into the lineup card every day, either.
Point being, it’s not going to take another May 2021 deluge of injuries for the Mets to be forced into some difficult situations here. The Mets still need someone else who can act as as a buffer between the top three outfielders and Smith, and someone besides Canò, Davis, or Guillorme who can play second or third base when one or more of the starters can’t.
Unfortunately, this series is called “One Last Move” and not “A Series of Moves the Mets Can Make to Increase Their Roster Efficiency,” so I can’t suggest the Mets just trade for someone like Tyler Naquin for the outfield and then sign another infielder.
Luckily, there is one player out there who can do all of these things and fit the provisions of this assignment, and that’s Oakland A’s utility man Chad Pinder. Just last season alone, Pinder logged time at second base, third base, shortstop, left field, and right field, and he has also played first base and center field in his career. Pinder can play pretty much anywhere you tell him to, and the crazy part is that he’s not actually bad at any of those positions besides shortstop and center. He grades out as a positive or scratch defender at every corner position, and he’s merely below-average at second.
Offensively, Pinder provides some thump off the bench, with a career .427 SLG and .183 ISO. Most will probably remember him from his standout 2018 season, where he came out of obscurity to post a 115 wRC+ and nearly 2 fWAR in just 333 PAs for the A’s, but he has not been able to replicate that since; he tends to come in firmly below-average offensively. So while nobody will mistake him for Frank Robinson at the dish, a career 98 wRC+ with that kind of defensive versatility is still an extremely valuable player, and one whose value goes beyond just WAR totals because of the increased flexibility he allows your roster.
As we’ve seen, Oakland has been in full teardown mode, and the Mets have already taken advantage of this by trading for Chris Bassitt. It would probably be worth it to re-engage with Billy Beane and check in on the price for Pinder. Given that the utility man is entering his age-30 season and only under team control for one more year, his trade cost would probably be nowhere near prohibitive.
Pinder would be a solid addition to a roster that can desperately use someone with his versatility. There are very few players in the league who can do what he does, and he might be the only one of them that’s available to the Mets right now. They should try to take advantage of this.