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New York Mets: Joe Panik deserves a spot on the roster in 2020

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 22: Joe Panik #2 of the New York Mets fields a hit for the out against the Cleveland Indians at Citi Field on August 22, 2019 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 22: Joe Panik #2 of the New York Mets fields a hit for the out against the Cleveland Indians at Citi Field on August 22, 2019 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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Joe Panik spent the last two months of his 2019 season with the New York Mets. In 2020, he’s worth bringing back.

Back in July, the New York Mets continued their recent tradition of bringing in native New Yorkers by signing infielder Joe Panik, who had just cleared waivers with the San Francisco Giants. Panik, a 2015 All-Star for the Giants, was having a down year at the plate in 2019, batting .235 with a .627 OPS before coming to New York.

However, he immediately proved his value by getting on base in his first game, which happened to be the same game as Michael Conforto‘s thrilling walk-off hit against the Nationals. He also found his way into other dramatic moments, such as when he hit a go-ahead home run against the Braves in the season finale, en route to a rousing 7-6 Mets win. Throughout August, Panik received regular playing time filling in Robinson Cano at second base.

Panik’s playing time diminished slightly once Cano came off the injured list on September 3rd, but he continued to be patient and productive at the plate throughout the rest of the season. Panik finished his 2019 tenure in New York with a .277 average, .333 OBP, and only nine strikeouts in 103 plate appearances.

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This continued his historical tendency of being very difficult to strike out. In 2019 he continued this trend by striking out once every 9.3 plate appearances, good enough for 4th in the National League. On a team that struck out 1384 times this year, Panik’s disciplined eye at the plate and ability to consistently make contact was a welcome skillset this season.

Panik’s solid infield defense also shored up what has been a noted weakness for the club in recent years. He made only two errors in 28 games with the Mets and finished 4th among all MLB second basemen with a .989 fielding percentage.

Panik has always been a reliable fielder, even winning a Gold Glove for the Giants in 2016. While the orange and blue struggled in defense across the board this year, Panik provided a steady glove that helped keep him in the lineup as the season wound down.

So what does Panik provide that is most valuable to the Mets in 2020? In short, a combination of all of the above. His strengths of defense and consistent contact match up well with areas in which the Mets are otherwise lacking. He is also several years younger than both Jed Lowrie and Cano, two of the Mets’ other infielders that figure to be a factor in 2020.

Though the Mets appeared to have a surplus of infielders when 2019 began, injuries to Lowrie, Cano, and Jeff McNeil necessitated the signing of Panik, and there is no guarantee that all three will be healthy for the entirety of 2020. Even as a backup infielder, Panik provides at least as good a glove and a much stronger bat than Luis Guillorme.

The one prohibiting factor to Panik’s chances to make the roster in 2020 could be his salary. In 2020, Panik is due to get a raise from his 2019 salary of $3.8 million, but he is a valuable part of the Mets’ future plans. However, his skillset has already proved to fit in well with the Mets’ existing roster structure, and he would be an extremely valuable piece to slot in for the 2020 team.

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Though Panik is yet another name in a crowded infield that already has Cano, Lowrie, McNeil, Guillorme, Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, and Pete Alonso under contract for next year, he demonstrated his long-term worth to the Mets this summer in all respects.

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