Small moves have highlighted the offseason for the New York Mets. One of their more mid-level additions thus far was signing Joey Wendle to replace Luis Guillorme. A gifted defender with an All-Star appearance on his resume, it’s impossible to dislike such an obvious upgrade.
Wendle had a tough time as the regular shortstop for the Miami Marlins last year, batting only .212/.248/.306. A shrinking market that put him only in a spot for a bench role, the Mets swooped in and signed him way back at the end of November for $2 million.
Then came the injury to Ronny Mauricio. Wendle has now become even more important to the Mets. And because of how few other options there are available to give them innings at third base defensively, there might be a little bit of buyer’s remorse with this free agent signing not because of how much he cost but the roster spot he now takes up.
If the Mets could do it all over again, they might prefer someone else
Gio Urshela would be the obvious alternative to Wendle for them to sign. The problem with signing Urshela now is that they suddenly become a team with two lighter-hitting infielders on the roster and fewer at-bats available for the veteran. In some ways, Urshela is the everyday version of Wendle. He’d cost more money, but could allow the Mets an opportunity to try out a few more things without sacrificing as much at all and maybe even improving the lineup.
The other obvious choice for the Mets is a deal with Justin Turner. A name so familiar with fans this offseason you could type it one-handed while spinning upside down, he doesn’t offer the same defensive skills as some of the others. He’s strictly a DH who can save the Mets at third base in case of an injury or they believe neither Brett Baty nor Mark Vientos are cut out for the position.
Urshela and Turner still make some sense for the Mets. However, the presence of Wendle makes them less vital. The likelihood of either coming to Queens seems to be growing slimmer by the day, too.
What now for the Mets if it’s not Gio Urshela or Justin Turner?
Free agency features guys who’d need to start at third base or are repeats of what Wendle would do in one way or another. The Mauricio injury has made it so the Mets will have to entrust Wendle at third base—at least for now—as maybe more than the end-of-game defensive replacement. Until they add someone from the outside, it’s the Baty and Vientos Show featuring Wendle.
The Mets have yet to back themselves completely into a corner with their DH pursuit which is very relevant to the situation at the hot corner. Turner remains available for now and signing him puts Wendle back into the role he was meant for. By adding Harrison Bader to the roster, the Mets have taken up one more outfield spot away from any of the corner outfielders who could fill the vacant DH role.
It’s one thing to doubt the Baty/Vientos duo as defensive players and live with whatever they can give on offense. The problem is, in the chances they’ve been given, neither has hit consistently enough at the major league level. It’s not preposterous to think Wendle could have a better batting average or OBP than both of them this coming season.
How important is it for the Mets to actually round out the final roster spots with an infielder? Their flexibility is limited to demoting Vientos, Baty, or DJ Stewart. And based on some recent speculation, they may be more apt to keep all three of those guys and roll the dice with an inferior DH plan.
The Wendle signing is still good. It has just led to the Mets missing some other opportunities. Perhaps those options were never truly something they were seeking.