The Arizona Diamondbacks modernized their roster today with the addition of bat-first former-Met, Wilmer Flores.
Flores is a long-surmised source of dormant offense, and the Diamondbacks are taking a chance on being the team to wake up his bat. The Mets no longer deemed his offense worth the cost, non-tendering him just a few weeks ago rather than take him to arbitration where he was projected to earn $4.7MM.
With the Mets, Flores moved around the diamond often, though the last few years he settled in more consistently at first. After New York acquired Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie this winter, last year’s happy surprise Jeff McNeil gets pushed into Flores’ utility role – and McNeil only costs the league minimum. No more room at the inn for Flores.
With the Diamondbacks, Flores steps right back into a utility infield role, a responsibility vacated by the Dbacks’ own non-tender, Chris Owings (Owings has since signed on with the Royals). Utility infielders aren’t exactly fungible assets, but it’s not uncommon to see a game of musical chairs such as this take place over the winter.
Still, with this type of player – a semi-to-almost regular who shifts around the diamond – the fit matters.
Flores fits on this Diamondbacks roster. Though they’re not done adding pieces, as it stands today Flores would take over primary second base duties with Ketel Marte moving to center. While this makes sense on paper, the Marte experiment has yet to leave the ground and there’s no telling as of yet how well he will adapt to the outfield.
The Diamondbacks will be better served acquiring a center fielder to step into the every day role, relegating Flores to first man off the bench duty. Jake Lamb struggles against lefties, making Flores a good bet to take on the lesser half of a first base platoon, especially since that’s where Flores is most viable defensively.
A full-time right side of the infield consisting of Flores at second and Lamb as he transitions to first does not provide the Dbacks young pitching staff with a lot of backup defensively. Many reactions to the Flores signing presume it means Marte will move to center, but I don’t see it. Rather, Flores gives manager Torey Lovullo another toy to play with as he makes out his lineup card.
One of the trends that has recently caught fire in the MLB, from Ben Zobrist‘s Cubs to Marwin Gonzalez‘s Astros to Chris Taylor‘s Dodgers, is the importance of having a versatile roster with interchangeable pieces.
With Eduardo Escobar‘s ability to play anywhere in the infield plus left field, and Jake Lamb’s hopeful competence at the corners, Ketel Marte moving between second and center, and now Flores as a righty compliment who can spell any of the three, the Diamondbacks have a very modern, flexible roster.
The deal guarantees Flores $4.25MM overall, but that includes a $3.75MM base for 2019 plus a $500K buyout for 2020. Should the Diamondbacks get a productive season from their new infielder, they hold a $6MM option for next season. It’s more than they were going to have to pay Chris Owings to serve a similar role, but where Owings has the edge in speed and defense, Flores has a bat that can actually play. Apparently, that matters too.