The New York Mets have made a flurry of moves this offseason, all designed to make their team better and deeper. There has been a large focus on the Mets free agent signings, particularly the new position players that were signed to multiyear deals. What tends to go unnoticed and dismissed are the moves made on the minor league level, especially when they are players that have not spent much time at the big league level.
In this article, I discuss the recent Mets signing of utility player Tzu-Wei Lin to a minor league deal, and why this was a good signing for the Mets, even if it doesn’t pay dividends for the Mets in 2022.
Tzu-Wei Lin appeared briefly for the Boston Red Sox from 2017 to 2020. He was mostly called up during the month of September when the rosters expanded. In his brief appearances at the big league level, he started off mostly as a middle infielder, playing second base or shortstop, but he also spent time at third base and the outfield. Once his time with the Red Sox concluded, Lin signed a minor league deal with the Minnesota Twins, and his time with them was very brief, ultimately only serving as a defensive replacement for one game before being outrighted to Triple-A St. Paul.
The Mets signing of Tzu-Wei Lin won’t move the needle at the big league level, but he provides additional depth in the minors if the injury bug crushes the team again in 2022.
As one of the more under-the-radar moves, the Mets signed Lin knowing full well that his pathway to the big league roster is slim at best. However, the move to sign Lin reflects one of Steve Cohen’s top priorities, and that is to invest in the team’s depth across all organizational levels.
One of the main reasons why Lin hasn’t spent much time in the big leagues is that he is not a well-rounded player. In particular, Lin’s major weakness is his bat, which does not possess the power that major league teams cherish today. Over the course of his major league appearances, Lin has hit a total of one home run over the course of five seasons and 193 at-bats. In a league that is increasingly relying on analytics to make lineup decisions, defense-first infielders are finding it more difficult than ever to earn a roster spot.
Despite his severe limitations on offense, Lin can still be a valuable player in the right role. Although Lin will be in camp during the truncated Spring Training, it is expected that he will start the season in Triple-A, playing for the Syracuse Mets. This could be the best thing for Lin’s career because it will give him the opportunity to play regularly and showcase his defensive versatility.
Although starting his career as an infielder, Lin has recently spent time in the outfield, particularly in left field. Lin’s willingness to play multiple positions and excel defensively at all of them could be a huge benefit to a Syracuse Mets team that is thin in both the outfield and infield. Although known as a defense-first infielder with excellent range, Lin’s foray into the outfield increases his value to the Mets because it provides him with several new pathways to the big leagues.
As of now, the Mets do not have many true outfielders on their roster. J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith, who profile more as first basemen (and third base in Davis’s case), often spent time in the outfield last season, given the logjam in the infield. Lin will get an opportunity in Triple-A to develop into a more pure outfielder, and a solid performance in Syracuse as an outfielder increases the possibility that he could receive an assignment on the Mets roster if injury woes afflict the team again.
Defensive versatility is valuable in the big leagues because of the limited roster spots teams have. As long as Lin could string together a little more offense, he could find himself in the big leagues more often with the Mets than he did with the Twins.