What's the backup plan if Brett Baty isn't the answer at third base?

Brett Baty has struggled as the season has gone on. Will he be the Mets' starting third baseman in 2024?
Brett Baty has struggled as the season has gone on. Will he be the Mets' starting third baseman in 2024? / Winslow Townson/GettyImages

The New York Mets snapped a six-game losing streak on Monday, but the biggest story of the day was the demotion of Brett Baty down to AAA Syracuse. The Mets' young third baseman has seen his average slip down to .216 after a two-week slump, but does this mean the team has to rethink its 2024 plans for third base?

In Steve and Alex Cohen's letter to season ticket holders last week, Baty's name was mentioned along with Kodai Senga, Mark Vientos, and Francisco Alvarez as players whose continued development they looked forward to watching the rest of the season. It's doubtful they meant in AAA, but Baty has been 0-for-August at the plate, and his play in the field has regressed as the season has gone on.

Some of this can be attributed to the "rookie wall." Young players aren't used to playing nearly every day, let alone in the crucible that is New York. The season hasn't gone as planned for the team as a whole, and it's easy to see from most of the team's body language that it's getting to them.

Baty has been accountable all season, even when he's made mistakes. It was only three weeks ago that he homered in back-to-back games for the first time in his career, and don't forget that his play is what made the Mets feel comfortable dealing Eduardo Escobar to the Angels in June.

The vibes are bad around the Mets right now, and it's possible that the team wanted to remove Baty from a situation that only promises to get uglier as we near September. Being on a major league team that is plummeting down the standings isn't ideal for a rookie that's already struggling, so perhaps Baty was sent to Syracuse to figure things out in a safer, less pressure-filled space.

Does Baty's demotion mean the Mets will be in the market for a free agent third baseman?

Even if you attribute much of Baty's struggles to being a rookie or playing on a team that is going in the wrong direction, the Mets need to feel really good about him being their everyday third baseman of the future, otherwise they'll need to supplement the position this offseason.

Baty has a negative WAR on the season, and his hitting stats against lefties are especially abominable, as he has just a .159 average and a .479 OPS. At the very least, this makes me think the Mets will look for a third baseman that can cover this deficiency to platoon with Baty, while using the 2024 season to get a better understanding of Baty's fit in the organization going forward.

Steve Cohen has hinted that this offseason won't mirror the 2023 spending spree, so that likely rules out Matt Chapman of the Blue Jays. Chapman has been one of the best third basemen in baseball for quite some time, and he's certain to command a huge contract. Manny Machado and Rafael Devers signed $300+ million contracts in the past year, and though Chapman likely won't get that much, Bleacher Report still predicts that he can expect something in the neighborhood of six years, $180 million.

A more sensible move for the Mets would be looking for a short-term option that could give way to Baty in a year or two if he continues to develop. Players such as former Met Justin Turner (he has a player option with the Red Sox for next year), Evan Longoria of the Diamondbacks, and (gasp!) Eduardo Escobar of the Angels all make sense as short term platoon fits that wouldn't break the bank, and they've all hit well against lefties this year.

Already in his tenure as owner, Steve Cohen has shown an ability to pivot if he deems a decision incorrect. Anointing Baty as the team's everyday third baseman hasn't produced the results Mets fans were hoping for, but it's far too early to give up on the 23-year-old third baseman. The best outcome for the Mets is to sign one of the three players mentioned above to an affordable contract, then hope Baty blossoms in his second full season in the big leagues.