SAN FRANCISCO — What had been a simmering private spat between a player and his team turned into the latest round of public drama for the freefalling Mets, who infuriated shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera by moving him to second base with little notice before Friday night’s series opener against the Giants.
In response, Cabrera asked for a trade, panned the club for a perceived lack of communication, then collected three hits as the Mets beat the Giants, 11-4, to snap a four-game losing streak.
“If they don’t have any plans for me, I think it’s time to make a move,” said Cabrera, whose bobblehead night is scheduled for July 1 at Citi Field. “I think that’s the right move for Cabrera and my family.”
Before the 2016 season, he signed a two-year, $18.5-million deal that includes an $8.5-million team option for 2018.
Last year, he was praised for his toughness and leadership on a team that reached the National League wild-card game.
This year, his forceful public declaration was the latest sign of discord for a team that has fallen short of expectations. Earlier in the day, the Mets signaled to rivals that they’ll listen to offers for their veterans.
The Mets (32-41) were coming off a humiliating four-game sweep against the Dodgers and began the day 10 games under .500, 12 games back in the NL East and 14 1⁄2 behind in the race for the second wild card.
“We’re at the stage where, look, these guys are smart,” general manager Sandy Alderson said. “They know where we are, they know what’s happened over the last 10 days, they know where we stand vis-a-vis the rest of the division and the wild-card race.”
Beating up on the equally wayward Giants provided only a temporary reprieve for the Mets, who knocked around Ty Blach for seven runs in three innings. Yoenis Cespedes hit a two-run homer and Lucas Duda had a homer and two doubles. Both joined Cabrera, Wilmer Flores and Michael Conforto with three-hit games.
“I’m a professional player,” said Cabrera, who insisted that he will retain his focus. “So I always come to the ballpark to do the best for the team.”
Righthander Seth Lugo allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings, good enough to pick up the victory on a night in which the Mets equaled their season high with 20 hits.
“They know they’ve got their work cut out for them, their backs are against the wall, and they’ve dug a deep hole,” Terry Collins said. “Today’s the first step. They played well and Seth kept us in the game.”
But even with the win, the Mets still face an almost insurmountable deficit a few weeks before the All-Star break, which is why team brass is sending word that they might be sellers.
Industry sources have pegged lefty specialist Jerry Blevins and closer Addison Reed as the Mets’ most intriguing trade chips. Each is in the final year of his deal, and Blevins’ has an option for 2018 that could allow the Mets to demand more back in a trade.
Jay Bruce leads a group of position players who are in the final year of their deals. The group also includes Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, Jose Reyes, Duda and Cabrera, who had been on the 10-day disabled list with a sprained ligament in his thumb.
Cabrera began the day hitting .244 with 11 errors, all while showing diminished range at shortstop. Last month, team officials approached him about a position change to third base, where he has never played.
Worried about how that might affect his pending free agency, the 31-year-old said he would consent only if the Mets would pick up his $8.5-million option for the 2018 season. They refused.
For now, the sides are stuck with one another. Trades typically don’t transpire until closer to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. In the meantime, Cabrera will see time at second base, with Reyes at shortstop.
“I know he can play second,” Collins said. “I know he can play it very, very well. I told you before the game he’s a professional. I understand he’s not happy playing there, I get that. But I knew when he took the field, he was going to play, and that’s what he did.”
Cabrera said he’d be willing to move to another position next year, well aware that the Mets’ top prospect, Amed Rosario, is a shortstop. But he went public with his concerns when the Mets penciled him in at second without a chance for reps during his minor-league rehab assignment.
Alderson disputed Cabrera’s charges of miscommunication, especially given that he played only two rehab games in the minors. Instead, the GM hinted that the response might have been fueled partly by frustration with how the season has unfolded.
“I would be very surprised if issues of this sort didn’t arise after the last 10 days, two weeks,” Alderson said. “So in some ways, maybe getting out on the table is healthy.”
The error and fielding percentage numbers for MLB shortstops show Asdrubal Cabrera has been among the worst defensively at the position this season.
Player, Team Games Errors Field Pct.
Tim Anderson, CWS 63 16 .939
Dansby Swanson, Atl. 70 12 .961
Elvis Andrus, Texas 70 11 .969
Asdrubal Cabrera, Mets 43 11 .936
Last night’s games not included