NY Mets: Javier Baez is a welcomed addition to the Big Apple
By Alan Karmin
Welcome to the New York Mets Javy Baez! Baez did not arrive from Chicago in time to wear the popular, or not so popular, black jerseys on Friday night, but he made an impact in his first game on Saturday night when he hit a two-run bomb to help the Mets fight back with a come-from-behind victory.
Like the reappearance of the Mets black jerseys, the acquisition of Baez has triggered bitter debate and has shown to be very popular with some, and not so popular with others.
A lot of the fan base was clamoring for the Mets to make a move before the trade deadline. As the deadline drew closer, social media was blowing up with the usual commentary about the Mets front office usual reluctance to make the big move. Of course, that portrayal of the front office is not exactly accurate, as the Mets have, in fact, made huge moves even at the trade deadline. But the Wilpons have left the fan base with a truly bad feeling. So even though the Mets pulled the trigger on a blockbuster trade to get a superstar in Francisco Lindor, and brand new owner Steve Cohen opened his wallet to give Lindor a $341 million extension to keep him around, the doubt has continued to linger.
While the fan base was honed in on the other Cub, Kris Bryant – who can play third base and the outfield…when he is not injured – the Mets turned their attention to Baez, Lindor’s best friend. The Mets have had a couple of popular and successful “friendly tandems” playing together throughout their history. Think about those two guys from Mobile, Alabama who played next to each other in the Mets outfield – Cleon Jones and Tommie Agee. More recently, there were two other guys from Puerto Rico who formed a formidable one-two punch in the Mets lineup – Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. And now there will be Lindor and Baez playing side by side. At least for a while.
Whether the New York Mets trade for Baez will be viewed positively will obviously be determined by a number of factors.
Right now, Baez is a rental. His contract is about to expire. Like Lindor, Baez was among the elite “shortstops” in the Major Leagues that was going to command huge money and a long-term deal to retain. The Mets put that issue to bed with Lindor almost immediately. Will they do the same for Baez? If not, then getting him was just a tease.
The Mets were, are, desperate for a righthanded bat to balance the lefty-heavy offense that leaves them so susceptible to lefty pitching, even if the person attached to that left arm ain’t so good. Baez is a proven power bat from the right side of the plate who can provide some protection for Pete Alonso as well as break up the lefties and lengthen the lineup.
Baez and Lindor have teamed up before, obviously when they were kids, but also, more recently, for Team Puerto Rico, with Baez at second and Lindor at short. Baez has said publicly for all the world to hear that he would gladly to move back to second base only if it meant playing with Lindor again. So it is clear that Baez is not stuck on playing shortstop because of the cache that comes with playing that position. Remember, Asdrubal Cabrera had huge issue with that when he was with the Mets. But does that mean he would be also willing to slide in on the other side of Lindor at third base rather than second? Because although Baez is clearly a magnificent second baseman, he would definitely be a better third baseman than J.D. Davis and Jeff McNeil, if the Mets were to decide to move McNeil over there. Playing Baez at second would create yet another issue that the Mets have with Dom Smith playing left field. There would be yet another player playing away from his best position, thereby further weakening the lineup.
And does Baez strengthen the lineup or does he weaken the lineup? The Mets have struggled all year to produce runs, or even just consistently hit. They have been an all or nothing offense and been just plain bad. Baez is a hitter, a dangerous hitter. But he also is yet another hitter who strikes out…a LOT. He is currently leading the Major Leagues in strikeouts on pace to strike out 200 times. And unless you are throwing the ball from 60 feet 6 inches away from home plate, that is nothing to be proud of.
I have loved Baez from the time he first arrived on the scene with the Cubs. He was a special kind of player, who played with an abundance of energy. He was the reason that the Cubs were willing to give up a talented, can’t miss player in Gleybor Torres to the Yankees some years back. And although Torres has been somewhat successful in his time cross-town, it has become clear that the Cubs knew what they were doing and kept the more talented Baez. And so while Mets fans have been begging for a Gleybor Torres-type acquisition, well, this could be it. Mets fans, you got the better man.
While Lindor has that huge smile and infectious exuberance, Baez takes it to the next level. He plays with reckless abandon. If he’s in the other dugout, he rubs you the wrong way. If he’s in your dugout, you’re just trying to keep up with him.
The pressure is on Baez as the comparison to the Yoenis Cespedes trade in 2015 is way too obvious. And what Cespedes did after he was acquired that season was almost superhuman, carrying the team on his back to a World Series appearance. Is that too much to ask from Baez?
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Bringing Baez to this team was definitely the right move. He is one of the most talented and exciting players in baseball and a much-needed right-handed bat that the Mets have lacked for a couple of years. With the fact that they will probably lose Conforto at the end of this season due to free agency, it would certainly balance the loss…but ONLY if they were able to sign Baez to a long-term deal like they did with Lindor, and like they did with some guy named Piazza years ago. I mean, if you asked any baseball fan during last winter if they would like to have two of the most talented shortstops, two of the most talented players in baseball on their team, who WOULDN’T want to have them? I know I would…I wouldn’t give it a second (base?) thought.