As David Wright inches his way back to what he hopes will be some major-league at-bats for the Mets this season, it’s easy to spot what the team has missed off the field since his last game on May 27, 2016.
There are no stats to measure the leadership and professionalism the captain brings to the franchise. But there are stats to measure what the 16 men who have manned third base in Wright’s absence have done at the plate.
In 2016, third basemen other than Wright hit .273 with 21 home runs and 60 RBIs for the Mets. Added to Wright’s pre-injury numbers, that’s 28 homers and 74 RBIs from third.
Not terrible, right? The Mets were a playoff team (albeit for one game) in 2016, when they got excellent fill-in production at third base from Wilmer Flores (.291, 9, 25) and Jose Reyes (.268, 8, 21).
In 2017, Mets third basemen dropped off by hitting .269 with 17 homers and 76 RBIs, and the numbers were inflated by a late surge by Asdrubal Cabrera, who played 44 games there to make room for rookie shortstop Amed Rosario. Cabrera hit .350, 3, 22 as a third baseman.
The 2017 Mets were a bad ballclub, in part because they went into the season without a backup plan if Wright couldn’t play (which he couldn’t).
Flores got the most at-bats at the position (193) and hit .259 with six home runs and 24 RBIs. But he proved to be inadequate defensively at third, with eight errors and a .929 fielding percentage.
Reyes, after his surprisingly strong 2016, cratered the next season. In 36 games as a third baseman, he hit .180.
T.J. Rivera showed some promise (.250, 3, 13 in 28 games), but he had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in September 2017 and is still trying to make it back.
With Wright uncertain going into this season, then-general manager Sandy Alderson vowed not to repeat the same mistake. He signed Todd Frazier — fresh off a trip to the ALCS with the Yankees — to a two-year, $17-million contract.
With that expected certainty in hand, the Mets so far have gotten the least production from third base in the two-plus seasons without Wright.
Frazier, who had never been on the disabled list, has been on it twice this season. Going into Saturday, he was batting .230 with 13 home runs and 42 RBIs when in the lineup as a third baseman.
Overall in 2018, Mets third basemen were batting .222 with 17 homers and 62 RBIs. Nine players have appeared at the position, with Reyes having the second-most games there after Frazier’s 79. Once again, Reyes has dragged down the overall numbers by hitting .167 in 66 at-bats as a third baseman.
The other players who have appeared in at least one game at third base for the Mets in the past three seasons (games in parentheses): Matt Reynolds (30), Kelly Johnson (21), Luis Guillorme (14), Jose Bautista (11), Ty Kelly (11), Phillip Evans (9), Eric Campbell (7), Jeff McNeil (2), Jack Reinheimer (2), Neil Walker (2) and Travis d’Arnaud (1).
Wright’s last full season was 2014, when he hit .269, 8, 63. His last good season was 2013, when he hit .307, 18, 58. His last really good season was 2012, when he hit .306, 21, 93.
Wright is 35 and has two years and $27 million left on his contract. The spinal stenosis that has wrecked his career has not yet ended it. Why has Wright put himself through multiple surgeries, years of rehab and the current minor-league rehab assignment he hopes will land him back in Flushing?
“He wants to be a player again,” Reyes said. “That’s why he’s been doing the rehab for the last 2 1⁄2 years. He doesn’t want to play one game and then retire. He feels like he can still play.”