Mets designate Darin Ruf for assignment

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Darin Ruf
Darin Ruf / Wendell Cruz - USA TODAY Sports

The Mets have designated Darin Ruf for assignment. The move comes after Ruf didn't do much in spring training to allay concerns that his struggles after being acquired last year were just a blip.

With Ruf being DFA'd, speedy outfielder Tim Locastro has made the Mets' 26-man roster for Opening Day.

"We’re kind of making a little bit of a bet on the stolen base element," GM Billy Eppler said on Monday. "I think that stolen bases are going to move up more than they did in the minor leagues. I can really see the stolen base coming into play here, and putting Locastro on the roster serves the functionality and the strategy that we want to deploy."

The removal of Ruf from the roster should theoretically make it easier for the Mets to call up Brett Baty or Mark Vientos sooner rather than later.

Vientos would be a perfect fit as a right-handed DH, and Baty could be the regular third baseman with Eduardo Escobar shifting into a lesser role that includes being the righty DH.

Ruf hit just .152/.216/.197 with zero home runs and three doubles after the Mets traded four players -- including J.D. Davis and Thomas Szapucki -- to the San Francisco Giants for him at last season's trade deadline.

His struggles continued in spring training, where he hit under .200 and did not have a single home run.

Ruf's last home run in any capacity came on July 24, 2022 when he was still on the Giants.

"Just generally, it was hard for him to get his feet underneath him," Eppler said. "... His first game here with us I think he had a double, and then it just kind of started snowballing.

"Feel bad for him as a person and the things that he kind of endured, but I appreciate how he handled everything and how professional he was through all of it. Just like last year on some things, we’re going to make the best baseball decision we have to make."

Ruf will earn $3 million this season, with his contract including a team option for $3.5 million for the 2024 season (that year of the deal contains a $250,000 buyout).

If the Mets don't trade Ruf, they will be on the hook for his full salary.

As far as who the Mets turn to in the immediate as the regular right-handed side of the DH platoon, Tommy Pham could make the most sense.

Pham slashed .273/.338/.446 against left-handers in 2022.