Way back in October of 2009, I wrote that moving Nick Evans to catcher made a ton of sense for the New York Mets. After all, Evans had a plus bat, no clear on-field destination, and the Mets certainly needed depth at the position. Like many things concerning the Omar Minaya Mets, this was n apparently fleeting idea with no follow-through.
Two years later, it is hard to see how anything has changed concerning Evans, or how he could best help the Mets.
Evans certainly holds his own at first base- his 143 OPS+ this season is more than adequate for the position. Among catchers? It would make him a superstar, assuming he could merely hold his own behind the plate.
Now, I’m not assuming that he could. But I think it would be silly to assume that he couldn’t. Come 2012, Evans won’t be the first baseman- Ike Davis, thankfully recovering from his ankle injury at long last, should have that position locked down. With Jason Bay entrenched in left field, and Lucas Duda a good bet to start in right field, where should Nick Evans go?
Getting his bat into the lineup would be a useful thing for the Mets. Consider that both Duda and Bay have significant platoon splits- Bay has an .886 OPS against lefties this year, .592 against righties. Duda is at .855 against righties, .744 against lefties. Nick Evans, for what it’s worth, has hit lefties and righties this season. Getting Evans out there with Duda against righties, and with Bay against lefties, can get him some at-bats. But really, Duda’s production against lefties has probably earned him an everyday job, so the overall opportunities there are limited.
Where else can Evans play? He can give Ike Davis time off against tough lefties, which will add some additional games for him. But if he had catching skills, he could provide a huge upgrade over Josh Thole against lefties as well- in essence, a Ronny Paulino that is far more valuable elsewhere around the diamond.
An Evans who could start 50 games at catcher, another 50 in the outfield, 25 at first and 5-10 at third base could provide the Mets with a strong ninth regular player. I know people discuss Daniel Murphy as such a player, but the reality with Murphy is that 1) he can play second base, where they need someone full-time, and 2) there’s actual evidence that Murphy can’t play the outfield, while offering no platoon advantage over Ike Davis at first base.
Simply put, the place Murphy can help the Mets is at second base. The place Nick Evans can help them is virtually everywhere in their 2012 lineup.
Here’s hoping the Mets belatedly embrace the chance to see what Evans can do behind the plate this winter.