Brett Baty forcing Mets to find way to put him on 2023 Opening Day roster

Brett Baty Mets
Brett Baty (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)

After his time at the World Baseball Classic with Team Venezuela and the red-hot spring top prospect Brett Baty is having, Eduardo Escobar’s standing as the Mets’ starting third baseman doesn’t seem to be on the sturdiest of grounds.

“I don’t know,” Escobar told Mike Puma of the New York Post when asked if he viewed himself as the Opening Day starter. “For me, I am coming in here with the idea that I am working hard to control what I can and working and seeing what happens.”

Going into spring training, this certainly looked like Escobar’s job to lose. He was coming off a torrid stretch to end the season in which he batted .340 with a 1.042 OPS, eight home runs, and 24 RBI in September. 

With one year and $10 million left on his contract, he’s the obvious financial choice to get the first crack at playing time at the hot corner, too. But the 34-year-old went 2-for-20 across seven spring-training games with the Mets before departing for WBC duties, where he went 1-for-10.

Eduardo Escobar
Eduardo Escobaro. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Meanwhile, back in Port St. Lucie, Baty has excelled. He slashed .342/.468/.447 (.916 OPS) with one home run, and five RBI across 20 games (47 PA) while his defense — which initially gave Escobar an upper hand at the position — has improved drastically. So much so that Mets manager Buck Showalter said that the progress Baty has made at third base had been one of his highlights of spring training. 

At this point, it seems like there’s no other choice but to put Baty on the Opening Day roster, which technicalities and seniority might have originally suggested that he’d start 2023 in Triple-A Syracuse before getting a call-up. 
There is an open roster spot with Edwin Diaz likely out for the season after suffering a torn patellar tendon in his right knee at the WBC. That’s a spot, though, that the Mets will fill with another arm to try and maintain its bullpen depth.
Brandon Nimmo, who sprained his knee and ankle last week and was a question mark for Opening Day, appears to be trending in the right direction and hopes to be ready to go for the start of the new season
So how does Baty get on this roster?
If Nimmo wasn’t ready to go, it’s almost simple to at least give Baty an early run in the majors. Left fielder Mark Canha could move to center, Jeff McNeil could play left, Escobar could shift to second or DH to keep McNeil at his natural position, and Baty would be at third. 
Now it’s not so easy. 
The Mets not only will be instituting a six-man rotation occasionally this season — which could see Tylor Megill and David Peterson on the roster with Jose Quintana out until at least July — but the uncertainty in the bullpen creates a few question marks. 
They currently have seven relievers that are deemed as favorites to make the Opening Day roster and that’s before they could potentially sign or trade for another arm to try and cushion the loss of Diaz: John Curtiss, Tommy Hunter, Stephen Nogosek, Adam Ottavino, Brooks Raley (dealing with a hamstring issue), David Robertson, and Drew Smith

It’d be surprising to see the Mets start the season with that six-man rotation, but even a normal five-man rotation plus a customary eight-man bullpen takes up exactly half the roster.

The rest of the roster appears to be close to set: Omar Narvaez and Tomas Nido behind the plate, Pete Alonso at first, Jeff McNeil at second, Francisco Lindor at shortstop, Escobar and Luis Guillorme as other infielders. In the outfield, there’s Nimmo, Canha, Starling Marte, and Tommy Pham while Daniel Vogelbach and Darin Ruf DH.

That’s the other 13 to make 26.

Brett Baty Mets
New York Mets’ Brett Baty reacts gestures after hitting a two-run home run in the second inning against the Atlanta Braves in a baseball game Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)

If there was to be an odd man out, it would logically be Ruf. He has struggled again this spring training, batting under .200 after doing so down the stretch last season after he was acquired from the San Francisco Giants.

Yet his track record against left-handed batters to create a platoon with Vogelbach — who does well against righties — is affording him another chance. Granted, the fact that the Mets gave up JD Davis for him will also extend his opportunity in the majors.

Taking Baty over him, though, would allow Escobar to flex to the DH spot alongside Vogelbach and give the 23-year-old a chance to have a proper run at the hot corner.

It sounds easy enough in theory, but it rarely ever is.

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