Baty joins Mets in London; reps at 2B may be in his future

June 7th, 2024

LONDON -- won’t be driving on the right side of the road this weekend, but he will be taking reps on the right side of the infield.

Merely a week after the Mets optioned him to Triple-A Syracuse, Baty rejoined the Mets as the 27th man for their upcoming London Series. That move is temporary; both the Mets and Phillies are allowed to carry an extra player Saturday and Sunday to ease the strain of transatlantic travel. Because optioned players must spend at least 15 days in the Minors, Baty -- barring an injury somewhere else on the roster -- is ineligible to remain with the club once the London Series concludes.

Instead, the third baseman will head back to Syracuse, where Mets officials have instructed him to take regular reps at second -- including game reps once he grows comfortable at the position.

Toward the end of his latest stint in the Majors, Baty began taking ground balls at second base during batting practice, but that was largely because the Mets didn’t have a backup middle infielder on their roster. Now, they do, suggesting Baty’s shift to second is for longer-term reasons.

“I love defensive versatility,” Baty said. “I’ve always loved it. I played a lot of different positions in high school, and I love moving all around the field. It’s cool. It’s just like a different game from other points of view. Any way I can help the team.”

Since the Mets optioned Baty, his close friend Mark Vientos has been thriving at third base, posting a 1.143 OPS in six games while performing well on defense. Mets officials aren’t committed to Vientos as their long-term solution at third, but they know there’s at least a chance the 24-year-old can man that position for years to come. If that happens, Baty would be without a defensive home.

Plenty of obstacles exist for Baty at second base as well, though none seem insurmountable. Of note, starting second baseman Jeff McNeil has been out of the lineup for four of the Mets’ last six games because of a slump that has dragged his OPS down to .616. Although McNeil has two years and $33.5 million still guaranteed on his contract after this season, Mets officials have already proven they’re willing to look elsewhere if they consider it warranted.

Fifth-ranked prospect Luisangel Acuña also plays second base, but the Mets have given him significant time at shortstop and in center field this season at Syracuse. Moreover, some scouts believe Acuña profiles more as a part-time player who can bounce around the diamond than a cog at any one position.

Combine all those factors, and the idea of Baty as a second baseman no longer seems farfetched. Plus, Baty’s ability to make marked improvements as a third-base defender over the last year suggests he could do the same at another infield spot.

“I’m excited to learn the position and see where it goes,” he said.

It’s an experiment that will unfold over time. This weekend, Baty’s focus will be on serving as an extra left-handed bat for a Mets club that skews right-handed on the bench. Given that Baty reported to Syracuse right away and hit two home runs in his second game back, the Mets were happy to give him this opportunity -- even if the logistics proved challenging.

Following his demotion, Baty flew with the Syracuse Mets to Atlanta, where the team had an hour-long layover, then on to Minneapolis for a series in St. Paul, Minn. Upon touching down in the Upper Midwest, Baty learned that he would be traveling to London, so he flew back to New York to pick up his passport, then to Washington to meet the Mets for their charter flight. Finally, Baty flew across the Atlantic to cap what he called “a crazy past couple days.”

Friday, Baty toured Buckingham Palace with his girlfriend before heading to London Stadium for a workout.

“I’m just going to come to the field no matter where I am, be where my feet are and try to be the best player I can be,” Baty said. “Just have a good attitude, give good effort, and be the best baseball player I can be.”