Mets Monday Morning GM: A different direction than Harrison Bader

Another direction the Mets could have gone instead of signing Harrison Bader.
Sep 8, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Whit Merrifield (15) goes to
Sep 8, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Whit Merrifield (15) goes to / John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Mets are see-through when it comes to understanding what it is they’re doing. Meeting short-term goals for the sake of benefitting the long-term future is the name of the game. This means not going far beyond one-year deals with many of the contracts the Mets have signed requiring a vesting option for 2025.

The one-year deal worth $10.5 million they signed with Harrison Bader matches what the Toronto Blue Jays gave to Kevin Kiermaier, a much more accomplished version of the man who’ll start in center field for the Mets on Opening Day. There was speculation early on that the Mets could add a center fielder. Michael A. Taylor was a rumored addition. They went with Bader instead, probably because he willingly accepted a one-year contract.

What if the Mets went in a different direction? They had Brandon Nimmo already and as much as his defensive skills diminished last year, what’s to say he won’t recapture them again? In either case, the Mets had different directions they could’ve gone. One recent free agent signing proves it.

Whit Merrifield on the Mets roster instead of Harrison Bader gives them a much different feel

Whit Merrifield is a much different player than Bader. And yet he actually meets their needs. Instead of the Mets, he’ll play for the Philadelphia Phillies this year on a contract worth $8 million that includes a $1 million buyout for next season or an $8 million club option. The contract is not only more affordable by a hair, but it also includes a second season with the team in the driver’s seat.

Merrifield didn’t have as many takers this offseason because of the downturn in his career. Although an All-Star in two of the last three seasons including last year with Toronto, his slash line continued to fall below the .284/.330/.420 he accumulated mostly with the Kansas City Royals.

The three-time stolen base leader has already seen his legs begin to slow. His 26 stolen bases last year was a bit of a disappointment with the new rules. Even Starling Marte who played much less than Merrifield and had a far worse year managed to take advantage.

On the Mets, they’d have two options with the right-handed Jeff McNeil. He could either become their starting left fielder with Nimmo remaining in center field or the Mets could move McNeil to left field and allow Merrifield to take over second base. He played the two positions almost equally last year.

Would Whit Merrifield make the Mets better than Harrison Bader can?

Merrifield is, without a doubt, the better hitter compared to Bader. The obvious difference is defense. Bader is touted as an elite-level defender. Merrifield registers below-average.

Adding defense to the roster has been a mission of David Stearns and he has done so at will. Joey Wendle as the backup infielder. Tyrone Taylor in the outfield. Eventually, we could even see Tomas Nido return to the majors if they ever find a taker for Omar Narvaez. The Mets are, however, sacrificing a lot on offense by choosing Bader over any number of free agent options, including Merrifield whose contract fits their mission statement and comes at a lesser price.

It would’ve been a much different-looking Mets team if they were the ones to sign Merrifield. Would it be better?

Merrifield is about to enter his age 35 campaign which for a guy whose speed is already slowing down and won’t ever lead the league in hits again drops a lot of his value. Many of us would’ve preferred to see the Mets add raw power into the left field mix, but many of those sluggers cost significantly more than Bader or were looking for multiple years.

Certainly not a must for the Mets, we could’ve been staring at a much different team right now if Merrifield was here. Skewed numbers possibly on the way playing in a stacked Phillies lineup in their bandbox 81 times a year will probably have Merrifield aging well offensively more than Bader hitting at the bottom for the Mets. We’ll just need to hope the hype of Bader’s defense is worth as much.