Voit makes back-field roster push ahead of opt-out

March 21st, 2024

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- By Saturday, will know if he has made the Mets.

Voit, a 33-year-old veteran on a Minor League deal, has a March 23 opt-out in his contract. When Mets officials return from their trip to the Tampa Bay area this weekend, they will need to have a conversation with him, one way or the other.

“I think I have a chance,” Voit said Thursday before playing in a Minor League game at the team’s Clover Park complex -- an eventful afternoon that saw him take a pitch off his helmet but stay in the game with no obvious ill effects. “Obviously, it’s not the spring I wanted to have statistically, but I’ve done a lot of work throughout it.

“I was doing a lot of damage on the back fields, too. I feel like at the beginning it was a little rough, and that’s kind of been frustrating. But they brought me here and told me I’d have a chance to make the team, and I feel like I’ve been making a late push for it. So we’ll see.”

Through 12 Grapefruit League games, Voit is slashing just .100/.222/.200, including a 1-for-19 stretch to open Spring Training. But his results have been better over the past week, including a solo homer Sunday against the Nationals. He’s reached base safely in five of seven games this month.

“That’s the crappy part about spring,” he said. “Thirty at-bats, you know? It is what it is. If I get four or five extra hits, I’m hitting .280. But I didn’t.”

On the back fields, Voit has been working to reduce his launch angle in the hopes of turning his flyouts into line drives. While many players spend time trying to increase their launch angles, Voit’s uppercut is so naturally severe that he believes it’s doing more harm than good. Over the past two seasons, he rates in the 87th percentile in launch angle among big league hitters with at least 300 balls in play.

For Voit, the goal is to tap back into the natural power that made him a notable slugger for the Cardinals and Yankees from 2018-20, when he slashed .278/.371/.541 with a home run every 15.6 plate appearances.

Mets officials may not need to parse through such nuance, however, when it comes to determining who will join Joey Wendle, Tyrone Taylor, Mark Vientos and Omar Narváez on their Opening Day bench. The top two candidates appear to be DJ Stewart and Ji Man Choi, who unlike Voit can both play the field and, as left-handed hitters, can offer balance to the bench.

If the Mets choose Stewart, Choi or even Zack Short over him, Voit must decide quickly if he wants to opt out of his contract or report to Triple-A. The market for right-handed DHs can be difficult in general, and especially so at this time of year. Voit, who finished last season with Triple-A Syracuse after the Brewers cut him from their Major League roster, understands the situation but says his decision “would probably depend on what else is out there.”

“Obviously I had a good relationship with those guys at Triple-A that year, so that’ll play into it,” he said. “But I don’t really have a choice. Obviously, my goal is to make the team.”

Back to back
threw 12 pitches in a Minor League game against the Nationals on Thursday, completing his first back-to-back sequence since 2022. Díaz had not thrown on consecutive days since undergoing surgery last March to repair the patellar tendon in his right knee.

“I was really pleased,” Díaz said. “Yesterday, I started a little bit off with my mechanics and I was throwing all over the place. And then I finished strong, my outing yesterday. But today, I was attacking the hitters the way I wanted and commanding my pitches really good.”

Díaz is scheduled to appear in one more spring game before Opening Day, ahead of his first Major League appearance since the 2022 NL Wild Card Series.

Also from the back fields …
Reliever showcased his health in the same Minor League game, striking out multiple batters. The Mets shut Reid-Foley down in early March after he complained of arm fatigue, but he has been ramping up in recent days and now appears healthy enough to start the season as an active player -- provided the Mets choose him.

Reid-Foley, Michael Tonkin, Yohan Ramírez and Phil Bickford are competing for two spots in the Opening Day bullpen. And Tonkin may have sealed up his spot with 2 1/3 scoreless innings against the Tigers on Thursday, potentially leaving three pitchers competing for one vacancy. Rival scouts have been high on both Reid-Foley and Ramírez all spring, increasing the chance that whomever the Mets don’t choose will get claimed off the waiver wire.