Mets Acquire Javier Baez in Trade With Cubs
The Mets hit Friday’s trade deadline with an offense averaging just 3.85 points per game. Only two teams were worse: the Texas Rangers and the Pittsburgh Pirates, and both sit last in their division.
The Mets, of course, have led the National League East for months (every day since May 8, to be precise), with the help of a weak squad around them. They held a three-and-a-half-game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday afternoon when they added a big bat in an effort to retire down the home stretch.
Javier Baez, a two-time infielder with 22 homers this season, joined the Mets with starter Trevor Williams and struck a deal with the Chicago Cubs. The Mets sent outfield prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong to the Cubs.
Baez, 28, won a Silver Slugger award at second base in 2018 and a Gold Glove at shortstop last year. The Cubs took him ninth overall in the 2011 draft, a spot after Cleveland drafted another Puerto Rico-born midfielder – Francisco Lindor, now the Mets shortstop.
Lindor has been out for two weeks with a strained slant and is expected to miss at least two more weeks; he didn’t start swinging a bat. Baez will take over from the shortstop as Lindor recovers, and he offers the option of moving on to second (or maybe even third) when Lindor returns.
“I’ve always been a huge fan of what he does as an offensive player, defensive player, base runner, all the different things he does on the pitch,” Mets manager Luis Rojas told About Baez. “He’s a very exciting player. He can beat a team in all of these areas. He’s a guy who can go 0 to 4 but beats you with his glove, or if he gets to the base he can beat you on the basespaths. He’s a guy with a lot of tools to play this game and put the team in a winning situation.
Baez, who is eligible for free agency after this season, had his best season in 2018, when he beat .290 with 34 homers and a best NL 111 RBI. But he’s never been a selective hitter, and this season has been an extreme example: Baez has a record 131 strikeouts and just 15 walks, with a base percentage of 0.292.
But Baez, a right-handed hitter who hits .248, brings all-star power and style to the Mets. He calls himself “El Mago” – the magician – for his smooth glove work, especially his talent for tag games. Like several Mets headliners, including Pete Alonso and Marcus Stroman, he’s also not afraid to speak out.
In his penultimate game with the Cubs on Monday night at Wrigley Field, Baez screamed and gestured as he strutted first after a hit against Cincinnati’s Amir Garrett. Baez, who had argued with Garrett on the pitch in May, was fined for taunting.
Williams, 29, also had his best year of 2018: a 14-10 record and a 3.11 earned-run average in 31 starts for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He’s fallen heavily since, and although he has a 5.06 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) with the Cubs this season, he shut out the Arizona Diamondbacks for six and a third innings on Sunday, in his last departure for Chicago.
Williams – and Rich Hill, acquired from Tampa Bay last week – will bolster a rotation that ace Jacob deGrom is missing, who is on the injured list with tightness in his right forearm. DeGrom threw 36 shots in a side session Thursday, and the Mets have not given a timeline for his return.
Crow-Armstrong, 19, was the Mets’ first-round pick (19th overall) in the 2020 draft, from Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles. He played six games for Class A St. Lucie, with 10 hits in 24 at-hits.
“It’s not easy for us to give up prospects,” Mets president Sandy Alderson said at a Citi Field press conference. “But in this particular case, when you have a few games ahead in the division on around August 1, we had to do something not only to improve the team, but also to show the players that we were supporting them.”
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