Juan Lagares, who had been the longest-tenured player on the Mets, is no longer with the team.
The Mets officially declined their 2020 option on Lagares on Friday, a mere formality considering the $9.5 million salary he would have earned and his underperformance in recent seasons. Instead, the Mets will pay him a $500,000 buyout.
The Mets also announced that infielder Joe Panik and lefthanded reliever Donnie Hart declined outright assignments to Triple-A Syracuse. They now are free agents.
The Mets’ other free agents: Luis Avilan, Brad Brach, Rajai Davis, Todd Frazier, Rene Rivera and Zack Wheeler.
Lagares, 30, a free agent for the first time, was a member of the Mets longer than anybody else on the 2019 team. He beat Wheeler to the majors by about two months in 2013. If Wheeler signs elsewhere, the longest-tenured Met will be Jacob deGrom, who debuted in May 2014.
A leftover from Omar Minaya’s time as Mets general manager, Lagares originally signed with the Mets in May 2006 as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic. He debuted in 2013, won a Gold Glove in 2014 and signed a $23 million contract in 2015.
But Lagares struggled to stay healthy, averaging fewer than 100 games per season from 2014-19. He suffered left thumb injuries in 2016 and 2017 — with an oblique strain mixed in — and played in only 30 games in 2018 before crashing into the outfield wall, hurting his left big toe and needing season-ending surgery.
Although he once drew comparisons from former manager Terry Collins to Carlos Gomez — a two-time former Met who, at his peak, was an All-Star, a dynamic offensive threat and a down-ballot MVP candidate — Lagares never developed as a hitter the way the Mets hoped and thought he might.
Lagares owns a career .254 average, .297 OBP and .361 slugging percentage, good for a below-average 83 OPS+. Relegated to a part-time role in 2019, he had a .213/.279/.326 slash line.