By Gem Tablak
Now while I’m extremely fond of all David Wright, Jose Reyes, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera & Wilmer Flores, I don’t know if I can exactly trust three of the five names listed above to stay healthy in Wright, Reyes & Walker.
As pertaining to Wilmer Flores, I still get the feeling that the Mets may end up trading him (which I’d hate to see), however if they don’t, I’m not exactly sure if Wilmer can hold up for more than 120 games without getting too over exposed, especially against right handed pitching & Cabrera is a year older after suffering an injury to the patella tendon which may result in decreased mobility.
So instead of re-signing someone of the likes of James Loney, why not take a shot with Valbuena? One thing the Mets will immediately get with Valbuena is infield versatility, which is something they already have but Reyes has had a string of leg problems since he’s come up from the minors. Neil Walker is fresh off of a back surgery & we all know of Wright’s conditions as they’ve been well documented. Even Asdrubal Cabrera could be at risk after a patella tendon injury, mid to late last season.
Now while it’s unlikely that the 5 or even 2 of the 5 of these players will all get injured at the same time (if they do at all), but given the history, if it were to happen the Mets would have to rely on Matt Reynolds, Ty Kelly & possibly Gavin Cecchini, who is considered defensively challenged at the time being.
Valbuena hit .260 last year, which is a career high for him with a .357 OBP & a .459 Slugging Percentage, although it was only throughout the duration of 90 games & 292 AB’s due to a season ending hamstring injury which shortly after lead to surgery. He also hit an impressive 13 HR’s, 17 doubles with 40 RBI’s. He would be the perfect back up platoon option with Flores being that Valbuena bats from the left side, Terry Collins would just need to start the player according to their splits.
Now Valbuena will never provide the Mets a .280 batting average or 25 HR’s off the bench but he can play 3rd, 2nd, & 1st at an average level to put it mildly. In his 90 games played last season, he committed 6 errors, all of which came at 3rd base. Since 2014, Valbuena has registered -12 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), though a healthy portion of that came in 2014 when he registered -10 DRS.
While his approach at bat isn’t exactly typical of what management looks for in a player, he would still be the better option over Reynolds & especially Cecchini till he gets more seasoning in AAA. Over his 9 year career, Valbuena averaged 88 games per season, so to say he understands the role of coming off the bench very well would be highly accurate. Throughout the entirety of his career, his OPS+ averages out to 92, 100 is considered the MLB average. The last 2 seasons, his OPS+ averaged out to be 115.
At 31 years old, I don’t expect Valbuena to get any teams to go further than two years on a contract but I could also see him settling for a 1 year deal if the market continues to move at a snails pace. Valbuena isn’t likely to get any better however I would project him to hit between 8-10 HRs with 15 doubles if he started 80 games on the year.
Against RHP in 2016, Valbuena had a .258 batting average (shockingly hit .267 vs LHP) with his OBP sitting attractively at .362 (.341 vs LHP) & a .479 Slugging Percentage, which again would make the perfect platoon partner with Wilmer Flores to back up all 4 infield spots. Photo Credit to Karen Warren