Why Mets optioned Baty, Vientos to Triple-A

March 26th, 2023

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- In many ways, and are big league ready. Baty famously homered on the first swing of his Major League career last August. Vientos has hit at every level. Both demonstrated marked improvement this spring at Clover Park, where they were competing for spots on the Opening Day roster.

But despite strong spring performances from Baty and Vientos, the team optioned both to Triple-A Syracuse on Saturday night, ending their bids to make the team.

“I think it was the news he didn’t want to hear,” general manager Billy Eppler said of Baty specifically. “When you’re a competitor and you have high standards, that’s completely natural. But those guys both took it very professionally. They know. They understand. They see the board, and they see the bigger plan, the bigger vision.”

Why did the Mets do this now?
Team officials, including Eppler and manager Buck Showalter, held a personnel meeting on Saturday morning to discuss roster issues in the closing days of camp. Among them were the fates of Baty, the team’s No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, and Vientos (No. 8).

According to Eppler, “the consensus of the room” was that both players would be better served beginning the season with Syracuse despite their strong camps. Baty hit .325/.460/.425 over 50 plate appearances, while Vientos batted .278/.310/.481 over 58 trips to the plate, including five doubles and two homers.

For Mets officials, that was not quite enough. Eppler compared Baty to star third basemen Nolan Arenado, Rafael Devers and Austin Riley, all of whom logged more games at third in the Minors before making their big league debuts. He also cited “development markers” that he still wants both players to hit, including more defensive consistency. The team would additionally like Vientos to cut down on his strikeout rate, which was 36.2 percent in Spring Training.

Who will make the team instead?
Veteran remains the starter at third following a dynamic September that saw him hit .321/.385/.596 with eight home runs over the season’s final month-plus. Outside of injury or trade, there was no scenario in which Escobar, who is still owed $10 million guaranteed, would have failed to make the roster. Simply put, the Mets still consider Escobar their best option at third base.

Vientos could have served as the right-handed half of a platoon at designated hitter with , but the Mets will instead use either or in that role. Eppler indicated he will not make a decision on Ruf, who has struggled in camp and battled arthritis in his right wrist, until Major League Baseball’s official roster deadline on Thursday. If Ruf doesn’t make the club, Pham will assume right-handed DH duties. That would also open a roster spot for speedy outfield bench option .

Did the Mets cut anyone else?
Yes. Baty and Vientos were part of a wave of roster moves that reduced the number of players in camp to 38, including four (, , and ) who will begin the season on the injured list. The team must cut eight more players before Opening Day.

In addition to Baty and Vientos, the Mets sent catcher , infielders and , outfielder , and pitchers and to Minor League camp.

When might Baty or Vientos return?
That’s not an easy question to answer. If Escobar is producing, the Mets are likely to stick with him as the starter at third base. But an injury or slump could change the equation, much as it did last August when Baty debuted. Baty would also be a consideration should anything happen to Vogelbach.

As for Vientos, much depends upon Ruf and Pham, a pair of right-handed hitters above him on the depth chart. Vientos could also fill in for if needed at first base.

Realistically, both Baty and Vientos will appear in the Majors this season. It’s difficult to say when that might happen, as unexpected needs typically prompt such promotions.

How did they take the news?
Professionally, according to Eppler. As Showalter put it, “everybody that comes into this camp thinks this is going to be that year where everything falls their way.” Telling two players who performed well in spring that they won’t make the team is one of Showalter’s least favorite parts of the job.

“With Brett and with Mark, we’re looking for a complete baseball player,” Eppler said. “We’re looking for guys that we can trust in the batter’s box, trust on the bases, trust defensively. That’s the ultimate goal here, is to bring championship-caliber players to this ballclub.”