Mets contract with Harrison Bader doesn’t look any better after what the Braves did

The Braves got a discount and the Mets overpaid.
Feb 19, 2024; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets Harrison Bader (44) does base running drills
Feb 19, 2024; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets Harrison Bader (44) does base running drills / Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

The $10.5 million the New York Mets handed to Harrison Bader wouldn’t normally be a problem if three other things weren’t true. One is that the money guarantees him as the starting center fielder for the team with zero chance of him moving to the bench without at least a long look. A second is how more tight-budgeted the Mets are. The team isn’t being cheap, but there are multiple examples of where they paid an inferior player more money than one of his peers.

We can point at the Atlanta Braves for the third reason why the Bader deal doesn’t look so fantastic. On Thursday, they brought back Adam Duvall for only $3 million.

Two different styles of players who happened to each win their lone Gold Gloves in 2021, paying more than three times as much for Bader doesn’t look like such a fiscally responsible deal.

In defense of this Mets free agent signing

A needed preface: who knew Duvall and likely many other free agents will end up signing for such a low rate in comparison? We can’t begrudge David Stearns for adding a guy earlier in the offseason when he could’ve, in theory, received a discount much later on. Imagine if the Mets were about to go into the season without Bader even on the roster.

Counterpoint: they could have still signed Duvall and maybe made the team better.

The Mets were still actually a match for Adam Duvall

Cries for an upgrade at the DH spot could have been somewhat solved by this signing. DJ Stewart hasn’t looked sharp this spring. Duvall is a clear upgrade albeit a sufferer of the same durability questions as Bader.

Duvall played in only 86 games in 2022 and another 92 in 2023. A low average hitter but with good pop, he’s a hitter you could reasonably expect to get starts as the DH. Bader, not so much. Playing in an identical 86 games in 2022 and a handful more at 98 in 2023, he is also a low average hitter yet the .635 OPS versus the .760 from Duvall is one example of who has been better in a pair of seasons where neither was all that good.

There isn’t much of an argument to even suggest Bader will have the better offensive season. We can’t debate the defense either as Bader is the clear winner. Three times the cost worth? You’d have to be in love with leather and allergic to wood to think that way.

A far more reasonable ending for the Mets would’ve been to get both of these players for a total of $10.5 million. The Bader signing, more than any other this offseason, looks outrageously higher than the expected output. That’s a lot to pay for a number nine hitter with a history of getting hurt. The fact that he’s better against lefties, which we’d expect from a right-handed hitter, only proves further how much of a better fit he’d be in a platoon situation.

Would the Mets be a better team with Duvall in left field and Brandon Nimmo back in center field? The only thing they lose are 100 games of Gold Glove-caliber defense. Duvall, as a veteran who could provide Pete Alonso with protection, would’ve been a great get even with Bader around.

Through a barf bag, I give kudos to the Braves with this one even if all they do end up with is 100 games of Duvall’s reliable run production.