Well, it was more than just Scott Boras using Jon Heyman as a puppet (though one suspects Boras enjoys doing that whenever he can, whether it’s a tactic or an actual leak or just a guy playing with his toys). Carlos Correa didn’t want anything to do with the Mets’ NFL contract offer after his original deal with them hit the ol’ ankle plate snag. And so he’s returning to the Minnesota Twins on a six-year deal that can become a 10-year one, depending on whether Correa’s ankle detaches, picks up a bindle, and hops a bus to chase its own Hollywood dreams.
Which means the Mets are basically back where they started. For all the noise about their offseason (some of it from me), they’re essentially just running back 2022. Edwin Diaz and Brandon Nimmo return. Justin Verlander replaces deGrom. Kodai Senga and Carlos Quintana take the spots of Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker.
Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because 2022 saw them win 101 games with only a handful of starts from deGrom and some time missed from Max Scherzer, too. Just because they had a bad three-game stretch against the Padres doesn’t mean it should be ignored that they were tied for the NL’s second-best team over the 162.
But, Mets fans and Mets media got a few weeks of dreaming about that left side of the infield of Correa and Francisco Lindor. The Mets weren’t just improved off of the 2022 team, they were Correa-sized improved. It could have been historic, the kind of combo that few teams in history get to trot out. It was hard to not get dizzy if you were blue pinstriped-adorned.
And now the cold hard reality of Eduardo Escobar trotting March 30 in Miami. Escobar is the definition of fine. Has had one plus-offensive season in his career, but has mostly been just above the average line (career 97 wRC+, but averaged 109 the past four full seasons). He doesn’t put his glove on his head at third. But he definitely has a “seat filler” vibe to him.
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Which is what he was before the offseason. He was the seat-filler for Brett Baty. Baty is the No. 2 ranked prospect for the Mets, behind Francisco Álvarez, who is now also in the netherworld between AAA and the majors. Baty made a brief cameo in August for the Mets when an injury crisis in the infield hit, and did provide one great moment. Sadly, that was in his first AB, and the next 41 saw a lot of ground-balls and some rotten luck (Both Baty’s average and slugging were some 100 points below his expected numbers via the contact he was making, according to StatCast). And then he caught Mets-itis, meaning he needed thumb surgery.
Baty only had six games at AAA last year, after he utterly destroyed AA in 89 games last year (.415 wOBA, 160 wRC+). He will start the season in Syracuse, but it’s hard to believe he’ll be there too long unless his thumb was replaced with an old-school Atari joystick. And it’s pretty easy to see him being in Queens before too long either.
Walking with a ghost
Of course, Baty won’t be inheriting the spot from just Eduardo Escobar now. He’ll be taking over from the ghost of Correa. If the Mets are behind the Braves at any point before the All-Star break, Mets fans will be looking at the hot corner at Citi Field and start playing the Sarah McLachlan song and seeing the outline of something that was only in their visions. Álvarez and Baty are about the only hopes, currently, for the Mets to be significantly better than they were last year (however significantly a team can bounce up from 101 wins in a division with two other playoff teams). Otherwise, everyone is just hoping for a rerun.
Which means that as soon as Baty returns to the Mets, he just won’t be the new third baseman. He’ll be the one who makes the loss of Correa, again a player the Mets never really had but certainly envisioned, OK. He’s going to be seen as the salve. He’s going to be held up as the shield to all the mocking and memes that will be tossed the Mets’ way after the Correa signing definitely went METS. Mets observers just won’t want Baty to hit, they’ll need him to hit. Otherwise, it’ll still be the ghost spot on the field.
Is Baty up to it? Likely, but no sure thing. He strikes out enough, but balances that out by walking a lot too. But he hits the ball on the ground a lot, and is more of a line-drive guy when he’s on than getting the ball in the air. His swing, while as smooth as a baby’s ass, looks more like a doubles guy than someone breathing fire, and the Mets were short on homers last year (15th in the league). Baty’s start in Syracuse will certainly be focused on getting the ball in the air more. But unless he’s the lovechild of Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt, you know what the headlines and tweets will be. He’ll hardly be the first prospect swallowed up by New York expectations, but one of the few to have to measure up against someone who was never even there.