Mets' reasoning for demoting Brett Baty and Mark Vientos rings hollow
When the Mets demoted both Brett Baty and Mark Vientos to Triple-A Syracuse on Saturday, it sent shockwaves through a fan base that proceeded to spend most of the night ruminating over the moves.
Granted, the Mets' incredibly passionate fan base has a tendency to overreact. But fans being angry over Baty and Vientos being sent down had every right to be. That's because the decisions and the reasoning provided afterward made very little sense.
And with Darin Ruf being designated for assignment on Monday morning, the choice to enter the season without either Baty or Vientos on the roster seems even worse.
Rewinding back to Friday, it felt that the presence of Ruf on the roster could block Baty or Vientos.
Basically, if Ruf was the right-handed DH option, Vientos wouldn't have much of a role. And if Ruf was taking up a roster spot and the Mets wanted to carry Baty, they would've likely had to take only seven relievers instead of eight to make the math work.
But even without Ruf, the Mets are still keeping Baty and Vientos down, and instead turning to speedy outfielder Tim Locastro, a career .227/.325/.331 hitter who hasn't hit above .200 since the 2020 season.
As is noted above, not turning to Baty or Vientos is curious -- and we'll delve deeper into that in a bit. But the reasoning given by Billy Eppler and Buck Showalter about it was strange, disjointed, and very difficult to take at face value.
Showalter, while discussing Baty and Vientos getting more seasoning at Triple-A, said it shouldn't be "unknown" if you can handle Triple-A before you come to the majors.
To listen to Eppler tell it, there were "markers" Baty and Vientos didn't hit that they still need to. That rings hollow, especially as it pertains to Baty.
Baty has played just six games in Triple-A. But the Mets' concern earlier in spring training was his defense. And bench coach Eric Chavez, a former third baseman, recently said publicly that Baty's defense is ready. Baty's bat also appears to be ready.
In the case of Vientos, he spent quite literally his entire minor league season at Triple-A in 2022. One hundred and one games worth, where he slashed .280/.358/.519 with 24 homers and 16 doubles. That was before a late-season promotion to the Mets.
Focusing at all on Triple-A mastery is also odd.
There are plenty of players -- including Juan Soto -- who never experienced the level before coming to the bigs.
Meanwhile, if you look around the league right now, you'll see teams giving their top prospects a chance if they earned that chance. That includes Anthony Volpe of the Yankees (22 games in Triple-A, on the Opening Day roster) and Jordan Walker of the St. Louis Cardinals (zero games at Triple-A, on the Opening Day roster).
Walker is 20. Volpe is 21. Baty and Vientos are 23.
Something doesn't add up.
Baty should be the Mets' starting third baseman out of the gate, but it will instead be Eduardo Escobar, who struggled for five months last season before heating up in a serious way in September.
Perhaps Escobar, who hit .118 with a .352 OPS in 34 spring training at-bats and is much better against lefties than righties, will excel with the bat. But if he doesn't, the Mets need to be prepared to turn to Baty very quickly.
Vientos, with Ruf gone, would be a perfect fit as the right-handed DH. But that will likely be Tommy Pham, whose numbers against left-handers were fine last season, but nothing to write home about.
In a bigger sense, what the Mets are doing right now with Baty and Vientos -- keeping them off the roster and the disjointed messaging around it -- seemingly runs counter to the all-in nature of this season.
Owner Steve Cohen has run up a record payroll, and said before the Mets' deal with Carlos Correa fell apart that the team was still in need of another big offensive piece
And yet, when given the chance to bolster their offense with Baty and/or Vientos, the Mets passed.
Maybe Escobar works out as the regular third baseman. Perhaps Pham seizes the righty portion of the DH platoon. But the Mets really shouldn't be spending much, if any, time figuring that out.
By eating Ruf's contract, the Mets continued to show that they're not afraid to admit a mistake or be aggressive with roster construction. That's what makes the Baty and Vientos situation so strange.
The Mets, going after their first World Series title since 1986, have the makings of an All-Star offense in Triple-A while a suspect one prepares to take the field in Miami on Thursday. Hopefully some of the guys in Syracuse won't have to wait too long before being allowed to contribute to a big league roster in need of what they can provide.