What's next for Mets' infield after Mauricio injury

December 13th, 2023

NEW YORK -- Before news of ’s torn right ACL became public on Tuesday, fellow Mets infielder had heard the diagnosis. News travels fast within circles of trust like the one that young Mets hitters Mauricio, Vientos, and Francisco Alvarez have.

“Tough news,” Vientos said. “Upsetting. He’s in my prayers for a quick, speedy recovery. It’s tough to hear.”

Once the public learned about what could be a completely lost season for Mauricio, the obvious next question became who might fill his spot. Until Tuesday, the Mets viewed their starting third-base job as an open competition amongst Mauricio, Baty and Vientos, with veteran Joey Wendle supplementing the mix. Now, the Mets could look to add another established free agent such as old friend Justin Turner. Or they could simply rely on their in-house solutions -- minus Mauricio -- and hope one of them embraces the challenge.

“I don’t know if it changes [anything],” manager Carlos Mendoza said. “We’ve been saying that we have a lot of depth, right? And he was part of that depth. Obviously, we took a hit, and we have to revisit again. But we’re feeling pretty good with what we have.”

Vientos and Mendoza both spoke Wednesday at the Mets’ annual Citi Field holiday party for local school children, with Vientos serving as an elf and pitcher José Quintana playing the role of Santa. It’s been a busy month for Vientos, a South Florida resident who recently made the six-hour round-trip drive to the Orlando area to work out with shortstop Francisco Lindor. The two had initially spoken about an offseason meetup back in September, so when Lindor reached out and offered to spend time with Vientos, the younger player jumped at the chance.

For four or five straight days, the pair of Mets infielders woke up at 7 a.m., worked out, went to a nearby baseball field, hit, performed defensive drills, then did it all again in the afternoon. They grabbed dinner together at the end of each day before Vientos retired to a room in the same community as Lindor’s house.

“Honestly, [it was] everything I expected out of Lindor,” Vientos said. “He’s a franchise player. He’s ‘Mr. Smile.’ Just being with him and seeing all the hard work he does; hard work pays off. And he works his butt off every single day. I got so much out of it going over there and training with him, learning, just learning his mentality. The way he goes about his business is eye-opening.”

Later this offseason, Lindor intends to replicate that experience with Baty, another young infielder who recently graduated from prospect status without quite establishing himself as a full-time big leaguer.

Therein lies the problem for the Mets: By this point, they had hoped that one of Baty, Vientos or Mauricio would have entrenched himself as their everyday third baseman. Instead, Mauricio will miss significant time recovering from surgery, Baty is coming off a disappointing rookie season that saw him produce a .598 OPS and endure a demotion back to the Minors, and Vientos is still trying to stick following a similarly poor season marred by inconsistent playing time.

At the Winter Meetings earlier this month, president of baseball operations David Stearns said that he expected one or more of those three to be the solution at third base. Whether Mauricio’s injury changes that equation remains to be seen, but for now, all Baty and Vientos can do is work hard enough to prove they deserve a fair shake.

“I’m just focused on what the team wants,” Vientos said. “I’m just asking questions of Mendoza and trying to figure out what’s going on. I’m just focused on getting better. The little things that I want to improve on -- defense, offense, baserunning -- I just want to be [better] all around. I know I can be all around and provide for this team as much as possible.”