The Mets arrived at Friday’s trade deadline with an offense that averaged just 3.85 runs per game. Only two teams were worse: the Texas Rangers and the Pittsburgh Pirates, and both of them are in last place in their divisions.
The Mets, of course, have been leading the National League East for months (every day since May 8, to be precise), with help from a weak field around them. On Friday afternoon, they held a lead of three and a half games over the Philadelphia Phillies when they added a big bat to pull away down the stretch.
Javier Baez, a two-time All-Star infielder with 22 homers this season, joined the Mets with starter Trevor Williams and cashed in a deal with the Chicago Cubs. The Mets sent the 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, one spot after Cleveland drafted another middle infielder born in Puerto Rico — Francisco Lindor, now the shortstop for the Mets.
Lindor has been out for two weeks with a strained oblique and is likely to miss at least two more weeks; he has not begun swinging a bat. Baez will take over shortstop while Lindor recovers, and he offers the versatility to shift to second base (or possibly even third) when Lindor returns.
“I’ve always been a huge fan of what he does as an offensive player, a defensive player, a base runner, all the different things he does on the field,” Mets Manager Luis Rojas said of Baez. “He’s a fascinating player. He can beat a team in all those areas. He’s a guy that can go 0 for 4 but beat you with his glove, or if he gets on base, he can beat you on the basepaths. He’s a guy blessed with a lot of tools to play this game and put the team in a winning situation.”
After this season, Baez, eligible for free agency, had his best season in 2018 when he batted .290 with 34 homers and an N.L.-best 111 runs batted in. But he has never been a selective hitter, and this season has been an extreme example: Baez has an N.L.-high 131 strikeouts and only 15 walks, with an on-base percentage of .292.