Last year, as Brandon Nimmo watched Keith Hernandez’s number retirement ceremony from the dugout at Citi Field, it occurred to Nimmo that if he were to sign longterm in Flushing, he could play more games for the franchise than Hernandez ever did.
That’s partially a quirk of Mets history. Outside of David Wright, whose career was shortened due to injury, no star-caliber position players have spent their entire careers in Queens. The most talented among them -- Hernandez, Gary Carter, Darryl Strawberry, Mike Piazza -- all wore other uniforms for long stretches.
From there, Nimmo’s mind wandered to the idea of what his statistical resume might look like if he spent more than a decade with the same team, which he’s become all but assured of doing since inking an eight-year, $162 million contract in December.
“It was one of the thoughts that was appealing to coming back to the Mets,” Nimmo said. “When I signed, it was like, ‘OK, everything that I’ve done to this point doesn’t just get erased. It stays with the Mets, and I continue to build off of it.”
This was no sudden epiphany for Nimmo, a thoughtful Met who has always had a firm grasp on his place in space and time. As a rookie in 2016, Nimmo recalled similarly watching Piazza’s number retirement ceremony and being floored by the adulation that Piazza received. During three seasons as Wright’s teammate, Nimmo picked the captain’s brain as much as he could, understanding the uniqueness of a career spent in one locale.
“You can see how much it means to the fans, those guys that were there and made such an impact,” Nimmo said. “I have an opportunity to actually be there longer than those guys. So I just thought, ‘You know what? Why not? Why not try and make your career something like that?’”
To be clear, Nimmo did not blindly return to the Mets out of some hope of entering the New York sports pantheon. The money had to make sense. His family needed to agree with the decision. The Mets had to reciprocate his interest.
But when it became clear that all those factors would fall into place, Nimmo began thinking more about the idea of staying healthy, compiling statistics over a decade-plus and eventually -- if everything breaks right -- having his own No. 9 raised above the upper deck at Citi Field.
“You never know what the next eight years look like, but … that’s something that’s attainable, that I can work for,” Nimmo said. “You bring a couple World Series here, you keep playing every 150 games a year, you give yourself the opportunity to do that.”
In part because of his injury history, Nimmo is still far from his goal. He sits a modest 34th on the franchise’s all-time hits list, 21st in runs and 14th in bWAR. But within a few seasons, Nimmo could rank much higher in those categories and others. He must average 55 walks per season to become the team’s leader in that department by the end of his contract -- a goal he jokingly acknowledged he feels beholden to attain. Even if Nimmo doesn’t catch Wright on the franchise hits list, he figures to slide into the Top 5 by the time he retires.
In fact, Top 5 in nearly every major statistical category is within his reach. Already, Nimmo is the longest-tenured player not just on the Mets, but on any of the five NL East teams. At age 30, Nimmo still has several prime years ahead of him to rewrite the franchise record books.
“I just thought when I signed the contract, it’s actually a real possibility,” Nimmo said. “Some kid from Wyoming having his number hung at Citi Field in New York City. You know? How cool would that be?”