At this point, nobody knows what the New York Mets will do this off-season. Owner Steve Cohen wants to win, and the talent already on the roster is playoff-caliber. Except, with numerous key contributors awaiting free agency, there are going to be plenty of decisions to make.
As the Mets go into an off-season of uncertainty that can make or break the future of baseball in Queens, among the many questions will be whether to re-sign Javier Baez or not. On top of the drama and the production, there is even more to consider when discussing bringing back Baez.
Mets got a boost offensively from Javier Baez
It goes without saying the Mets must consider bringing Baez back from a pure production standpoint. There is no way New York would have even won 77 games this season if it was not for his bat and glove.
As a Met, the 28-year-old infielder hit for a .299 batting average with nine home runs and 22 runs batted in. His .886 OPS with the Mets is also higher than his 2018 All-Star season when he finished second place in NL MVP voting.
Defensively, Baez flashed the elite glove and arm he had with the Chicago Cubs. With New York, Baez played 35 games at second base, and 12 at shortstop when Francisco Lindor was hurt. Even when talking versatility, there is no free agent infielder who could be as beneficial to the Mets as Baez is.
Unless the Mets believe there is a more valuable option awaiting in the minor leagues…
Mets cannot forget their top prospects
When the Mets traded for Javier Baez, they knew they were acquiring a pricey infielder set to hit free agency. Thus, leaving the Mets with the option to either re-sign him this off-season or let him walk.
If the latter scenario is the final decision, the team may not even need to look elsewhere for his replacement. In the minors, New York has three promising prospects who could make an impact from the moment they hit the majors.
First is the Mets second-ranked prospect, Brett Baty. A third baseman who recently began taking reps in the outfield, Baty is a complete prospect who can hit and field. As pointed out by Brad LaPlante a few weeks ago, “The Mets likely sent Baty to the Arizona Fall League to escalate the level of talent he’s playing against. Teams send their best players from Double-A to Triple-A each year.”
"“The Mets likely sent Baty to the Arizona Fall League to escalate the level of talent he’s playing against. Teams send their best players from Double-A to Triple-A each year.” – Brad LaPlante, Rising Apple"
For Baty, it would come down to what happens at second base this off-season. While Baez manned second once Lindor returned, the Mets will get Robinson Cano back this season and Jeff McNeil’s position is to be determined.
Behind Baty, shortstop Ronny Mauricio ranks third amongst Mets prospects. Finishing the year in Double-A, Mauricio too should be in Triple-A quickly in 2022. Mauricio is a phenomenal athlete and could be an option if New York were to move him to second to replace Baez.
Meanwhile, like Baty, the team’s sixth-ranked prospect Mark Vientos fall under the third base category. Vientos finished a breakout season in Triple-A and has fantastic power at the plate.
At the end of the day, all three of these prospects have the potential to become major contributors in 2022. That is, assuming if the Mets were to let their homegrown prospects play, rather than extending Baez. In that scenario, any one of the three could find themselves being traded elsewhere to fill another need.
Where does the Mets money go?
Should the Mets not re-sign Baez, that means they can distribute the money elsewhere. Starting pitcher Marcus Stroman had one of the best years of his career in 2022 and is going to be quite expensive to keep around.
At the same time, New York could look for some other offensive upgrades. Kris Bryant, Marcus Semien, or Nicholas Castellanos (player option) would be huge signings. Or maybe boost the pitching staff, with Kevin Gausman, Carlos Rodon, Max Scherzer, Robbie Ray, and more who are all coming off great seasons.
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Who knows what the New York Mets will do this off-season? But one thing for sure is that if New York re-signs Baez, it would cause a trickle effect from the minors to the team’s ability to devote money elsewhere this off-season.