Javy BáezPhoto: Getty Images
It’s easy to forget that the Mets have existed recently. The biggest news coming out of Queens since they’ve fallen out of playoff contention have been Francisco Lindor and Javy Báez’s “thumbs down” debacle, Jacob deGrom getting hurt more often than Mr. Glass from Invincible, and a TikTok trend involving a Spider-Man villain, Kingpin, being a huge Mets fan.
Other than that, the Mets have been as relevant to the game of baseball as I have. They are guaranteed to finish under .500, and after one season with Francisco Lindor, the team’s huge offseason acquisition, the Mets offense finished 22nd in batting average, 24th in OPS, and recorded a -42.9 FanGraphs offensive WAR. Javy Báez was supposed to help the offense make like the Hokey Pokey and turn itself around. That is what it’s all about after all. However, if you’d been paying any attention to the Mets, what with all the talk of fans booing and this fantastic video of Báez missing a breaking ball by four feet:
You’d probably think the deadline acquisition of Báez was not working out at all. In reality though, Javy Báez has been one of the best hitters in baseball since landing in Queens.
Personally, I thought the Mets gave away too much in their No. 5 prospect, Pete Crow-Armstrong, when trading for Báez. El Mago had struggled mightily in 2021 to the tune of a .292 OBP (second-lowest of his career), .484 SLG, and 33.5 percent strikeout rate (eighth-highest in MLB). However, since joining the Mets, Báez has slashed .316/.387/.542. In just 44 games, his on-base percentage has been raised from .292 to .323. That’s three points behind his career-high OBP of .326, the same season Báez finished second in NL MVP voting.
Now the question is whether or not the Mets should keep Báez around for future seasons. While the numbers indicate that the Mets would be silly to let Báez walk away in free agency, the first impression Báez left on the Mets’ organization by calling out fans for booing and being called out by Mets’ President Sandy Alderson for calling out the fans, might have left a bad taste in the Mets’ mouths. Bad enough to let Báez walk away this coming offseason.
While you never want to keep a player on your roster that doesn’t want to play there, it’s not impossible for players who made poor first impressions to reconcile with their teams. Take Pablo Sandoval. The former Giants’ slugger repeatedly bashed the Giants in 2014 after signing a deal with the Boston Red Sox. After his failed stint in Boston, Sandoval made a heartfelt apology to the Giants and their fans before signing with the team in 2017. While the big Panda energy from his days with the Giants in the early 2010's were gone, the fans more or less welcomed Sandoval back with open arms even though he wasn’t the same player he once was.
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Like I said, that’s not exactly the same situation Báez is in. Sandoval made a great first impression with Giants’ fans only to destroy his reputation in one swoop. It would be harder for Báez to reconcile with Mets’ fans and management, but it can definitely be done. Báez has talked in the past about wanting to re-sign with the Cubs in free agency, but if the Mets make like Marlon Brando and offer him a contract he can’t refuse, Báez could end up being a key member of that Mets’ offense for years to come.