Should the Mets Bring Javier Báez Back to Flushing?

Should the Mets Bring Javier Báez Back to Flushing?


Should the Mets Bring Javier Báez Back to Flushing?


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At the end of July 2021, the New York Mets acquired shortstop Javier Báez from the Chicago Cubs in order to bolster their chances of making the playoffs. While the team was unable to crack in on the postseason, the infielder made a huge impression with his new ball club. With Báez hitting free agency this offseason, should the Mets bring Báez back to the Big Apple?

In his first game with the Mets, Javier Báez gave the fans a glimpse of what he can do at the plate. With the team trailing 4-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, the shortstop stepped into the batter box to face Cincinnati Reds pitcher Wade Miley. After falling behind in the count at 1-2, Báez saw a pitch he liked. Miley threw a 86 MPH cutter on the inside corner of the strike zone. Báez punished the mistake pitch, crushing the ball over the left field wall to get the Mets back into the ballgame. This was potentially the first of many special moments for the infielder in the blue and orange.

Báez finished the 2021 season with a slash line of .265/.319/.494 in 138 games. Looking strictly at what he did in his brief time with the Mets, it makes the middle infielder look far more valuable. Following the mid-season trade, the 28-year-old slashed .299/.371/.515 with nine home runs and 22 RBI’s in 47 games.  

Throughout his career, the biggest knock on Báez has come with his lack of discipline at the plate. His inability to lay off pitches outside of the strike zone has led to one of the higher chase rates across the entire league. While usually a major concern for Báez, his numbers in that department were much improved in the second half of last season. The infielder had a walk rate at 7.0% with the Mets, a drastic improvement from his 4.2% walk rate with the Cubs last season. Báez saw a similar breakthrough in his amount of strikeouts, as he had a 28.5% strikeout rate in New York compared to a 36.3% strikeout rate in Chicago in 2021. While the sample size is small, what Báez was able to accomplish in his short time with the Mets could point to more discipline at the plate moving forward.

It could be forgotten, but people need to remember that Robinson Canó is still under the contract with the Mets. The 39-year-old infielder will be returning to the team following a year-long suspension for the use of performancing-enhancing drugs. Canó was fairly productive at the plate when last seen in the majors, slashing .316/.352/.544 with ten home runs in 49 games during the shortened 2020 season. With the DH potentially coming to the National League next season, another spot in the lineup could be opened up. The second baseman is set to make $48 million over the next two years, so expect Canó to assume some sort of role with the Mets in 2022.

On November 26, it was reported that the Mets were in agreement on a two-year deal with Eduardo Escobar. The 32-year-old started the 2021 campaign with Arizona Diamondbacks, before being moved at the trade deadline to the Milwaukee Brewers. Escobar, who was a first-time All-Star last season, can play across the entire infield. The infielder could serve as the starting third basemen, but it is safe to say he will be a strong replacement for utility man Jonathan Villar, who played a critical role for the Mets last year. Over the last three full seasons, Escobar has an OPS+ at 113. 

The other notable player on the 40-man roster who could see a lot of playing time at second base is Jeff McNeil. After hitting over .310 in both 2019 and 2020, the 29-year-old utility man struggled last season. McNeil had a slash line of .251/.319/.360 with an OPS+ at 88. While he made 79 starts at second base in 2021, his playing time on the infield diminished once the team acquired Báez. In the final two months of the season, McNeil saw most of his playing time come in left field. If the Mets intend on retaining the 2019 All-Star, he could find himself being used in a super utility role once again.

Báez has spent a majority of his time in the big leagues at shortstop, but re-signing with the Mets would require him to become more of a second baseman long-term. Francisco Lindor, who the team signed to a 10-year extension prior to last season, will be the everyday shortstop moving forward. However, this wouldn’t be a difficult transition for Báez as he has made 231 starts at second over the course of his career. 

The Mets have been reported as one of three main teams looking to sign Báez this offseason. The Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers have been considered as the other two in the mix. With the MLB lockout coming later this week, the infielder could sign with a team before Dec. 1. 

When the Mets acquired Javier Báez in the middle of last season, nobody really knew how he’d perform down the stretch. In 49 games with the team, the infielder proved that he is still one of the most electrifying players in all of baseball. The Mets have already shown plenty of willingness to spend this offseason, signing Escobar, OF/1B Mark Canha and OF Starling Marte all over the past four days. At this point, it’s difficult to tell what the team is going to do, but there is no denying that Báez would add another dynamic to an extremely talented group.


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