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Javier Baez: Best Deadline Acquisition

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The New York Mets are still fighting for a playoff spot despite their three best players, Jacob deGrom, Francisco Lindor, and Brandon Nimmo, all missing significant time in the second half. Although they gave up a top prospect and missed out on Kris Bryant, the Mets still did very well in their deadline deal with the Cubs.

Baez’s Impact in Queens

The Mets acquired Baez on July 30 during the Cubs’ massive fire-sale, and he immediately made a big impact, homering in his first game as a Met. After just 33 plate appearances (of a 32 wRC+), Baez went on the IL with a back injury. Since returning on August 22, Baez has been one of the best bats in baseball, sporting a .427 OBP, .682 SLG, .461 wOBA, and 196 wRC+ in 96 PAs.

Baez switched back to second base, the position he played in his 2018 MVP runner-up campaign, upon the return of defensive wizard Francisco Lindor. At 2nd, Baez has put up 2 OAA and 2 DRS in 157.2 innings, after not playing the position the past two seasons. Lindor, at shortstop, has put up 16 OAA, which ranks in the 99th percentile of all defenders. Together, the two make up the best defensive middle infield duo in baseball, while simultaneously putting up solid numbers at the plate.

Although the Mets have had huge production from Lindor and Baez, they’re still below-.500 since the trade deadline, when they were 55-48. This may not be the year for the Mets, as injuries have killed them once again. It’s possible that Baez isn’t back for 2022, especially after the incident with the fans. Whether or not he’s back, the Mets have still gotten an electric month from one of, now, baseball’s most underrated players.

Baez’s Second Half

Baez leads all major trade deadline acquisitions in SLG, wOBA, and wRC+ since the trade deadline, while ranking second in fWAR. Since the deadline, he’s cut down his strikeout rate to 27.1%, which ranks as just the 19th worst in baseball in the time frame, a huge improvement from his 36.3% K% in Chicago.

Although the thumbs-down incident may have rubbed Mets fans the wrong way, his on-field performance has more than made up for it. This stretch of games has made up for Baez’s struggles in 2020, as he’s proven that it was a fluke and he’s not actually a 57 wRC+ hitter. He’s made himself a hot commodity this offseason, and he’ll likely see many suitors despite a loaded middle-infield market including Marcus Semien, Carlos Correa, and more.

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main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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