11:20 am Apr. 11, 20121
The aura of invincibility (!) surrounding the this year's New York Mets finally dissipated on Tuesday night.
Not only did the team suffer its first loss, 6-2 at the hands of the Washington Nationals, but third baseman David Wright, who hit .583 over the first four games of the season, was diagnosed with a fractured pinky.
How long he'll be out is still unknown, but the injury is problematic whether it keeps him out of the lineup or he returns, compromised.
Ordinarily, a player rushing back, rather than allowing his injury to heal, is a major mistake. Todd Zeile did this for the 2001 Mets, playing with a significant elbow injury, and the result was the Mets had a first baseman who hit 10 home runs all year. Nobody won, certainly not the Mets.
But the alternatives at the position are so limited, the Mets could be tempted to push Wright back into the lineup even if it means he has to swing one-handed.
On their major league roster, assuming the Mets are committed to playing Daniel Murphy at second base, there are two options for replacing Wright. Ronny Cedeno, who started in Wright's place Tuesday night, has a career OPS+ of 68. With league average hitting checking in at 100, and Wright's career mark at 134, it would be a shocking downgrade as it is.
But Cedeno has only 13 major league games at third base, so he's not only a substandard hitter, but he'd be playing out of position.
Justin Turner is the other option at third base, and his career OPS+ is a slightly more palatable 86. He, too, is not a third baseman by trade, with just 37 minor league games and 44 major league games at the position. The Mets could move Daniel Murphy to third base, putting Murphy and Turner in their natural positions, but that is a short-term move, keeping the Mets, yet again, from seeing what Murphy can do at his important new position.
Dipping into Triple-A isn't necessarily the answer either. Zach Lutz has been playing third base for Buffalo, with first baseman Josh Satin also capable of playing the position. Neither one is particularly good in the field, and Dan Szymborski's ZIPS projections for the two come in at an 85 OPS+ for Lutz, 83 OPS+ for Satin.
There's no timetable, as of now, for Wright's return. And no easy decision for the Mets about what to do with their most valuable position player.