Early impressions of Mets free agent signing Harrison Bader

Harrison Bader has brought a fun energy and a better bat than expected to Queens.
Pittsburgh Pirates v New York Mets
Pittsburgh Pirates v New York Mets / Adam Hunger/GettyImages

Harrison Bader was a somewhat surprising addition to the New York Mets roster this offseason. We knew early on the Mets were in the market for a center field upgrade. A shallow pool of options available at the position had many wondering if the team could actually keep Brandon Nimmo at the position and instead add a slugger into left field.

Determined to improve the defense up the middle and in the outfield, the Mets boldly paid Bader $10.5 million. A big contract for a guy who hasn't shown much at the plate in recent years and has a history of getting hurt, it was personally my least favorite move of the winter.

Well, Bader hasn't been all too awful. He hasn't been great either. Falling somewhere in between, Bader is fitting into his role perfectly as needed, giving them superior defense and some quality at-bats out of the nine spot.

What has the free agent signing of Harrison Bader brought to the Mets?

Athleticism. He puts pressure on other teams to make plays even when he hits a squibber on the infield with the bases loaded. Sunday’s RBI was Bader’s first of the season. Suddenly turning into a bit of a hit machine over his last few games, having this sort of production from the bottom of the lineup brings a lot of value when you have Brandon Nimmo at the top.

As expected, Bader is playing great defense although he has already been charged with more errors this year than Tyrone Taylor has in his entire career. Nevertheless, Bader’s range has taken away some of those highlight reels we’re used to seeing from a Gold Glove-caliber player. What is more routine for him would require a dive from some others. We can’t ask for much more from him on this side of the baseball.

Still an imperfect hitter, it took Bader until his double on Monday to finally have an extra-base hit this season. The double against the Pittsburgh Pirates was his first. He added a home run on Wednesday. He’s having a big week and will head to the West Coast with a favorable .288/.327/.365 slash line on the year.

Coming into this season, Bader already had a tendency to strike out a bit too often for his power production. Not one to draw walks regularly, he has been impatient at the plate as well. Just 2 walks versus 13 strikeouts in 55 plate appearances showcases one of his greater weaknesses.

Working out favorably for him are some of the more consistent hard hit balls in his career. Lifetime exit velocities and hard-hit percentages below the average, he’s actually above each this year. The owner of a lifetime hard hit percentage of only 33.3% at the moment, he’s at 41% in 2024.

Bader is aggressive and that’s a part of what makes him a fun player. The Mets have been able to mask some of his weaknesses this season with Taylor replacing him in the lineup often. However, Bader is a good pinch hitting candidate over someone like DJ Stewart.

A hero for the Mets this week, he’s about the best type of number nine hitter you could want. Although the $10.5 contract still seems ridiculous in comparison to what some of his peers are making—Michael A. Taylor of the Pirates received only $4 million and he’s putting up comparable numbers albeit with a ton more strikeouts—Bader hasn’t given us enough to complain about. It’s Bader’s energy, maybe more than anything else, that is the most welcomed quality he brings to the Amazins.