Harrison Bader is “bothered” by yet accepting of his lack of playing time

Harrison Bader was expecting to play a little more than he has recently.
May 4, 2024; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; New York Mets outfielder Harrison Bader (44) looks on
May 4, 2024; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; New York Mets outfielder Harrison Bader (44) looks on / Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

When the New York Mets signed Harrison Bader for $10.5 million this offseason, the expectation was he’d have every chance to start in center field they could possibly give him. He’s getting into games but not as a starter. It’s not as if he’s playing poorly either. Bader had a 5-game hitting streak heading into Tuesday with two hitless at-bats putting an end to that.

Now slashing .280/.314/.340 this year with 3 doubles and a home run, the Bader experience has been better than the Mets could have probably envisioned. The absence of power has him falling out of the lineup in favor of DJ Stewart these days. Right or wrong, Bader expressed how bothered he is by the situation.

“I don’t handle it well, I can tell you that, but I certainly don’t let it affect the way I prepare, the way I keep focused when I do get an opportunity to go in there and play, even if it’s later in the game. If anything it lights more of a fire under my ass. I’m bothered by it for sure.” - Harrison Bader via NY Post

Bader isn’t speaking out and demanding more playing time unjustifiably. This isn’t Keon Broxton in 2019 all over again. Bader is playing well and with the team compiling two victories in a row without him in the starting lineup, it might continue more often than he’d like.

The Mets have reduced Harrison Bader into the role closer to what he probably should’ve had all along

Bader as the everyday center fielder never felt like the right move for the Mets to make. With a far greater need to increase the power out of the left field spot, the Mets opted to try and do a little of both by moving Brandon Nimmo over. It wasn’t a horrible decision and the numbers bear out positively. Bader has been an elite defender in center field and Nimmo has measured around close to average as a left fielder.

The playing time issue is now a result of Stewart hitting well or at least being a threat to pop a home run or get on base and something we haven’t seen much of lately—Tyrone Taylor. J.D. Martinez’s presence on the roster has been a reality check for several Mets players. Taylor hasn’t started a game since May 3 when he went 2 for 4 with a pair of runs scored. He pinch run on May 5 and hasn’t seen action since. A trade acquisition rather than a free agent signing, he’s probably more accepting of this but it shouldn’t take away from any bothered feelings. He is putting up better numbers than Bader and is a far greater threat to hit a home run.

The Mets don’t have any easy solution other than to continue going with the best matchup possible. Stewart sat against the Tampa Bay Rays in the first two games, only entering as a pinch hitter. That’ll be his duty in the long run. He has gone just 1 for 6 in his two starts against the Cardinals.

It’s actually a pretty good situation for the Mets to be in right now considering the bruises their lineup will also carry. Bader, Stewart, and Taylor are all candidates to pinch it whenever they don’t start. They could hit for each other or more regularly for one of the two catchers. Bader and Taylor will also be pinch running candidates for Stewart, the catchers, or Martinez.

Writing up the lineup cards is the easy part for Carlos Mendoza. The difficult task is to balance playing time for all of these players. Bader got paid but this is also a walk year for him where he’ll look to secure a new contract, more playing time, and everything else that goes along with it. Bader and the rest of the roster will need to remain amenable to changes. Despite being bothered, he at least sounds open to it.

“But I respect what they view as giving us an opportunity to win and at the same time whether my name is in there or not I prepare to play every single day of the season.” – Harrison Bader via NY Post