Travis Jankowski has made the most of his playing time with the New York Mets. The 27th or 28th man on the roster depending on how you look at it, he is getting opportunities to start in the absence of Mark Canha and Brandon Nimmo.
So far this season, the speedy outfielder has gone 5 for 10 at the plate. Sure, they’re all singles. But with his ability to run and play steady defense, he isn’t a half-bad fifth outfielder to carry on the roster.
Here’s the problem: on May 1, rosters fall from 28 to 26. Jankowski was a logical choice for the Mets to part ways with. The team could move forward with a bench of Tomas Nido, J.D. Davis, Luis Guillorme, and Robinson Cano/Dominic Smith depending on who plays. The Mets could cut one relief pitcher and have a normal-sized bullpen. Jankowski’s promising start, however, throws a wrench in everything.
The Mets don’t have a simple solution with Travis Jankowski
Because he is out of minor league options, the Mets can’t just send Jankowski to the minor leagues and promote him again when needed. It’s unfortunate. He would have to be designated for assignment and pass through waivers to remain with the organization. If he’s playing well, any contending team looking for some outfield depth would surely pick him up.
The Mets have a problematic roster in the way of minor league options. Their bullpen has two guys they can demote: Seth Lugo and Drew Smith. The position players include a few more guys with minor league options but many of them are starters or at least guys we’d expect to play a big role with the club. Someone like J.D. Davis or Dominic Smith are not getting sent down simply to keep Jankowski on the roster.
Before the season began, when we were all panicking about a possible trade with the San Diego Padres, it was reported that some members of the Mets front office preferred Jankowski to Dominic Smith. It wasn’t necessarily because Jankowski was a better player as much as he fits what the roster needed more.
The Mets have a DH-heavy roster. It’s an issue for a couple of National League teams. It will remain problematic in the game as more players hit their way onto the big league rosters and don’t play the kind of defense needed to get outs.
Jankowski is one of those defense-first, offense-second type of players whose presence on a big league roster is to come into the game after the seventh and steal runs or bases. Certainly a good piece for the Mets to have, it’ll be tricky keeping him around two weeks from now. Even an injury would have him on the roster bubble all year long.
We’ll have to see how Jankowski plays during his time with the Mets to figure out just how hard of a decision it’ll be for the front office. Right now, Sean Reid-Foley is the obvious DFA candidate from the pitching staff. He may not even make it to May 1.
Jankowski is different. He has performed better than expected. Let’s see how Billy Eppler manages this one.