Although the Mets were linked to a number of different names ahead of Friday’s trade deadline, they ultimately went out and got a big bat by acquiring Javier Baez from the Cubs.
While he’s not perfect by any means given his struggles in getting on base (.292 on-base percentage, 15 walks), along with being prone to the strikeout (131 strikeouts), Baez is one of the most electrifying players in baseball, and the Mets’ front office acquired him to be an impact player on both offense and defense.
“Does he have Brandon Nimmo’s approach at the plate? Not necessarily, but he brings a lot of power, he brings elite defense and base running,” said Mets general manager Zack Scott. “There’s going to be nights that are going to be tough for him against certain pitchers, but there’s also going to be nights where he’s going to help us win games with his power and the things he can do in the field and on the bases.”
“We think he adds a lot, brings a ton of energy to our team, knows how to win, knows how to do a lot of things to help us win," said Scott. “He knows some people on our team. Obviously, he’s been very vocal about wanting to play with Francisco [Lindor], which he’ll get an opportunity to do at some point when Francisco’s back playing for us. But we just think this makes our team pretty deep and versatile, so we’re excited to have him.”
Despite the Mets showing interest in Baez’s ex-teammate Kris Bryant, New York shifted their focus towards bringing in a versatile position player who can play shortstop after losing Francisco Lindor to a strained oblique.
And Baez fits this description perfectly, as a Gold Glover at shortstop, which is where he will play everyday until Lindor comes back.
"Obviously, Francisco’s injured right now, which opens up more of an opportunity for him to play his natural position,” said Scott. “As I’ve said before to you guys, we like a lot of our position players, so when we’re looking at possible trades for bats, we’re looking at how they change our team relative to the guys we have, who we think are good players.”
“Javy gets the edge, maybe over some other guys, because he fits a direct positional need right now with Francisco being out for a little while, but he’s also excited to move around … he provides that versatility that I’ve talked about when Francisco does return and takes over at shortstop. That’s why he fits really well."
Upon Lindor’s return, Baez can slide over to play second or third base, depending on what the Mets decide to do with Jeff McNeil.
And speaking of Lindor, he just began doing light baseball activity including running, lifting, playing catch and fielding grounders. Although Lindor is still 3-5 weeks away from re-joining the club, it’s safe to say that he’s ecstatic to have the opportunity to play alongside his good friend in Baez down the stretch of the season.
"I'm super excited man. I couldn't be happier,” said Lindor, who joined the zoom room after Friday night's game. “I will be playing alongside a good friend of mine, a good baseball player and someone whose going to help us win.”
According to Lindor, he and Baez go all the way back to playing youth baseball against each other in Puerto Rico growing up. They also played against each other in high school in the U.S, and were teammates on the same travel baseball and All-American teams.
Lindor believes Baez is someone whose going to bring a ton of energy to the Mets’ clubhouse, and most importantly, a winning culture and mentality. Baez helped the Cubs win a World Series Championship back in 2016, thus ending their 108-year drought without a title.
The 28-year-old Baez also kills left-handed pitching which is an area that the Mets’ offense has struggled with this year.
"I would say if we had weaknesses in the first 100 games of the season, it was, one, inconsistent starting pitching, just because we had holes to fill every three or four days, and the second would be our offense against left-handed pitching, and we’ve certainly addressed one of those issues with Baez,” said team president Sandy Alderson.
Baez is slashing .301/.363/.603 with a .965 OPS against southpaws this season, and seven of his 22 homers have came versus left-handers as well.