Mets finalize 1-year deal with former Gold Glover Bader

January 5th, 2024

The Mets bolstered their outfield alignment with a native New Yorker, signing to a one-year contract, the club announced on Friday. The deal is worth $10.5 million, a source told's Mark Feinsand.

A Bronxville, N.Y., native who attended Horace Mann High School in The Bronx, Bader is familiar with and has become a familiar face in the Big Apple, spending parts of 2022 and ‘23 with the Yankees. The 29-year-old is a career .243/.310/.396 hitter over parts of seven seasons with the Cardinals, Yankees and Reds, and is considered one of the game’s elite defenders.

“We’re very happy to add Harrison to our team. He has continually distinguished himself as one of the best defenders in baseball and can help us win games in a variety of different ways,” Mets president of baseball operations David Stearns said in a statement. “He’s a native New Yorker who knows what baseball means to this city and our fan base.”

Bader is also more than familiar with Mets star Pete Alonso; the two were teammates at the University of Florida from 2014-15, including the Gators' run to the Men's College World Series in 2015. Alonso welcomed Bader to the Mets with a post on Instagram on Thursday afternoon.

Injuries and uncertainty exacerbated the Mets' need for outfield depth this winter. Originally, the team headed into the offseason hoping to begin 2024 with a starting outfield of Jeff McNeil (left), Brandon Nimmo (center) and Starling Marte (right), with DJ Stewart also in the mix. But now New York will need McNeil at second base after prospect Ronny Mauricio suffered a serious knee injury in December, and the 35-year-old Marte remains a question mark after battling various lower-body injuries the past few seasons.

The Mets have responded by acquiring two glove-first outfielders in the past few weeks, first trading for Tyrone Taylor in a multi-player deal with Milwaukee and now acquiring Bader, long one of the league’s top fielding outfielders. A Gold Glove winner with the Cardinals in 2021, Bader posted 66 Outs Above Average, per Statcast, from 2018-23, tops among outfielders and fourth among all defenders in MLB, behind only three elite shortstops. Kevin Kiermaier (58 OAA) was the only outfielder in Bader’s vicinity, with Manuel Margot (47 OAA) next in line over that span.

Those numbers are all the more impressive considering that Bader has battled some injuries and been less than a full-time player at points in his career. Since '18, he only ranks 32nd in the Majors in innings played as an outfielder.

What remains far less certain is Bader’s potential at the plate. He owns a below-league average 92 OPS+ over more than 2,100 plate appearances, and has has shown significant platoon splits, with a career .824 OPS against left-handed pitchers but just .667 against righties.

However, Bader has performed at an above-average level overall for stretches of time, such as in 2020-21, when over roughly a full season’s worth of playing time (153 games), he hit .258/.327/.457 (114 OPS+) with 20 home runs. Bader also crushed the ball during the Yankees’ 2022 postseason run after being acquired from the Cardinals at the Trade Deadline, bashing five homers and slugging .833 in nine games.

The agreement begins what should be a busy back-half of the offseason for new president of baseball operations David Stearns, for whom the winter has to this point been defined by high-profile targets that signed elsewhere (Craig Counsell, Yoshinobu Yamamoto). The Mets are expected to make several more signings in the coming weeks, and remain in the market for starting pitching, bullpen help and perhaps a third baseman.