Jesse Winker could make a new legacy for himself in Queens in 2024
Who doesn’t like a good villain-turned-hero story? Loki. Snape. Glavine.
Mets fans have always had an antagonistic relationship with Winker, stemming all the way from his early days in Cincinnati. On his recent trip to Queens with the Mariners, the rivalry was ignited again, and this time it seemed more fun than ever.
Winker is a Mets villain for sure, but he’s someone fans almost love to hate. It’s fun to boo him, and even more fun when he leans into the role of villain as he does. He even complimented Mets fans during his visit, referencing their relationship.
“I love them,” Winker said. “They are an amazing group of people. They are very passionate about their team and their city. The thing we’ve got going on is special.”
It’s easy to picture Winker in a Mets uniform, still being booed as he takes the field. Except this time, it’s happy boos, just continuing the tradition. Really, it’s already halfway there. Sure, Mets fans boo Winker, but few really dislike him. It’s just a fun back and forth.
He’s struggling to start 2022, but so much of the league is as well that it’s not too worrying. Otherwise, he’s been stellar throughout the rest of his career, putting up a .888 OPS and 128 OPS+ from his debut in 2017-21. He hits for a solid average, he gets on base and he has good pop. He’s just a very good all-around hitter.
His defense on the other hand leaves a lot to be desired, but he’s passable in left field. There would be an opening in the outfield too, even if the Mets re-sign Nimmo the offseason prior.
Nimmo and Starling Marte would be under contract, but the guaranteed years on Canha’s deal will be up. There’s a team option for just over $12 million, but entering his age-35 season it wouldn’t be surprising for it to be declined.
The Mets could get younger with Winker, who will be going into his age-30 season, while adding a bat that is similar in caliber if not a bit better.
As for the money, the Mets will finally be done with the Robinson Cano contract, freeing up about $20 million. Scherzer could also opt-out, but at age 39 it’s hard to imagine him opting out of over $40 million.
Winker wouldn’t break the bank, but that might be necessary after the money that could be potentially dished out the year prior with deGrom, Bassitt, Diaz, Nimmo and potentially Musgrove. It’s also a relatively weak free-agent class, so Winker is one of the best available options in the first place.
The other interesting name is Rafael Devers, but 2024 will also likely mark the beginning of the career of Brett Baty, the No. 23 prospect in baseball on MLB.com. Baty is a third baseman, as is Devers. Yes, Devers could DH, but that would pretty much lock up the DH spot. Winker would allow much more positional flexibility, while also keeping financial flexibility for 2025.