Mets add versatile Escobar, Canha (sources)

November 27th, 2021

NEW YORK -- No longer content to sit out baseball’s early offseason proceedings, the Mets struck twice Friday evening, agreeing to terms with outfielder Mark Canha and infielder Eduardo Escobar on two-year deals, according to sources. Canha’s deal includes a third-year option with a guaranteed total of $26.5 million, per sources, while Escobar’s is for $20 million.

Both deals are pending physicals. The team has not acknowledged either signing because they are not yet official.

Combined, the agreements improve New York’s roster, while also offering it versatility for future offseason moves. Canha, 32, is capable of playing all three outfield positions, allowing the club to remain open-minded about potential acquisitions of additional outfielders, such as Kris Bryant or Seiya Suzuki. Escobar, also 32, can start at either second or third base, giving the club options as they continue to look to improve their team. And if the designated hitter returns to the National League, both players give the Mets potential coverage at that position.

On the whole, the agreements make the Mets better with little long-term risk. Canha offers New York additional right-handed balance, and although he features reverse career platoon splits, he’s proven adept at hitting both righties and lefties.

Last year with Oakland, Canha clubbed 17 home runs in 141 games to go along with a .746 OPS. A career .244 hitter with a .344 on-base percentage, Canha has averaged 20 homers per year over his last three full seasons. His seven-year career with the A’s included three postseason appearances.

Escobar, meanwhile, made his first All-Star team last summer en route to a .253/.314/.472 slash line with 28 home runs and 90 RBIs for the D-backs and Brewers. In his last full season before that (2019), Escobar clubbed a career-high 35 homers, while tying for the Major League lead with 10 triples.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have my boy Escobar with us,” tweeted Mets pitcher Taijuan Walker, who played alongside Escobar in 2019 with Arizona. “Hands down one of the best teammates I’ve ever had. Mets fans are going to love him!”

Overall, Escobar owns a career .256/.309/.436 slash line with 138 homers over 11 seasons for four different teams. More than half of that service time came with the Twins from 2012-18.

While the Mets acquired Escobar in large part for his offensive resume, they also did so because of his competent defense at both second and third base. As the roster is currently constructed, the club doesn’t know who will be manning either position for them come April, so the addition of Escobar gives them the flexibility to move in any number of directions. If they want to use Jeff McNeil in the outfield, for example, they can start Escobar at second. If they trade J.D. Davis, they can use Escobar at third.

In effect, Escobar is a replacement for Jonathan Villar, who appeared in 142 games last season as the Mets’ utility infielder. The veteran's addition also won’t stop the club from pursuing Javier Báez, who would simply push Escobar to third if they manage to re-acquire him.

No matter what Báez does, Escobar figures to give New York roughly league-average defense at multiple positions, with some combination of McNeil, Davis, Robinson Canó and perhaps Báez also playing second and third.

There is still much to do on all fronts for the Mets, whose new general manager, Billy Eppler, recently acknowledged that pitching is his top priority. To that end, New York recently lost out on its bid to sign left-hander Steven Matz, but plenty of other starters remain. Expect the club to engage with Kevin Gausman, Robbie Ray and other top unsigned starters, as well as lesser depth pieces.