Written by: Bobby Engelhard
The Mets have come to an agreement with Adrian Gonzalez, pending a physical, and I know many Mets fans initial reaction is this is a move they made because they are cheap. That may be, but to me there are more layers to this than just the cost of the player (I Hope). Yes Adrian Gonzalez is coming cheap as he is owed 22.3 million dollars next season but the Mets will only be on the hook for 550k of his salary. This is a result of the Atlanta Braves trading for Adrian Gonzalez from the Dodgers and immediately buying him out, making him a free agent. The Braves have to pay his salary and the Mets only requirement is giving him the league minimum which for a veteran player is 550k. Lets take a look at what this move means for the Mets moving forward.
This move is the same as when we signed Jose Reyes after the Colorado Rockies bought him out. At the time of that move most people seemed to like the low risk of signing Reyes as well as bringing back a fan favorite. Adrian Gonzalez is not a fan favorite and the timing of this move with the Mets payroll being a constant topic of conversation has most people not thrilled. I, for one, believe this can be a great signing if the Mets handle this correctly.
The Jose Reyes deal in my opinion was not handled correctly and the Adrian Gonzalez addition can have similar problems. The reason the Reyes deal did not end up working out was not because of Reyes but because of how the Mets used him. They decided this would be a cheap way to fill two main needs at the time, being a starting third baseman and leadoff hitter. What ended up happening was Reyes was awful in the field at third and he did an ok job at the plate but showing he clearly was not an everyday player anymore.
Since the Mets tried to kill two birds with one cheap stone, it ended up hurting us. Reyes showed he was much more valuable at shortstop and limited at bats and should have been used in a backup role. Hopefully the Mets will used Adrian Gonzalez in a smarter way and maximize his value for this team.
WHY THIS IS A GOOD MOVE
This move can really be a good one, if like I said, the situation is handled correctly. I have much more faith in the Mets new manager Mickey Callaway to figure this out than I did Terry Collins. Not because I know Mickey Callaway is the next Casey Stengel, but because I know anyone is more capable than Terry Collins was, especially regarding playing time. Lets talk about Adrian Gonzalez as a player for a second. Last season was a bad year for Gonzalez mainly because of a back injury that limited him to only 71 games. As a result his numbers suffered, not only at the plate, but in the field. Back injuries are tricky and the Mets do not have much luck with backs (Walker, Duda, Wright) but Adrian Gonzalez prior to last season had played in 155 plus games for 12 straight years. Yes, he is 35 years old, but I think with his otherwise sterling medical record, he will not be an injury concern this season. So number 1 reason this is a good move is I expect Adrian Gonzalez to be available to play.
Second reason, is when Adrian Gonzalez does play he has shown to be a true professional hitter from the left side and a solid, if not, spectacular fielder. Having a lefty professional hitter to go to late in games off the bench is a huge positive for any team. Also, if Adrian Gonzalez is asked to play for extended periods of time next season he can provide solid production. Think of Adrian Gonzalez as being a better version of James Loney for us. That might not be to exciting, but is definitely helpful over the course of a long season. The ability to go to a guy off the bench, whether it be due to injury or lack of production, to replace someone is a nice luxary. I also like Gonzalez’s game in this lineup due to the fact he is not an all or nothing player like most of our guys are and have been in the past. He will work the count and has always been a great RBI man due to his ability to not strikeout at a high rate and put the bat on the ball. Having a guy like that bat 6th in a lineup every few days really puts pressure on an opposing pitcher. So even though he may not be the same player physically at this point he can still give you solid at bats down in the order which helps win games.
The third and to me most important reason this is a good move is it puts pressure on Dom Smith and I think pressure is what this kid needs. His work ethic has been called into question and by adding a veteran first baseman who the Mets can turn to in the blink of an eye if Dom Smith is not cutting it should keep him motivated. I would like to think a professional athlete is 100 percent self motivated but adding some outside motivation can only help. This creates healthy competition which I feel can bring out the best in Dom Smith, who I still think will be a very good pro once he puts it all together. Also, by having a veteran in the clubhouse at the same position gives Dom Smith someone to model himself after and someone to learn from which also can only help.
WHY THIS IS CAN BE A BAD MOVE
This move will turn out to be a bad one if the Mets do not handle it correctly. This move can not be made with the idea of having Adrian Gonzalez being our starting first baseman all season. At this point he needs to be used as a backup player playing maybe twice a week. You can not rely on him producing all season at this point and by going into the season with that plan will surely lead to disaster.
The other thing the Mets can not do is look at this move as anything more than depth. If they look at this move like this is the Adrian Gonzalez of a few years ago and pencil him in for great production we are going to be short on talent once again on offense. We still need to add 2 more big league bats to this lineup and Adrian Gonzalez should not count as one of them.
All in all to me this move is a smart one if viewed as a depth signing and adding a veteran bat to have off the bench and in the clubhouse by the Mets. This will be bad for us Mets fan if the Mets view this more than depth and think they do not have to add more to this offense counting on Adrian Gonzalez to drive in 100 runs.