The Mets had the need because of injuries to Yoenis Cespedes (strained right hip flexor) and Juan Lagares, who is probably out for the season after having surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left big toe. Without them, they needed an outfielder who hit right-handed; the original lineup Tuesday included three left-handed outfielders against the Marlins lefty Caleb Smith.
Callaway said he wants Brandon Nimmo, who has a team-high .410 on-base percentage, to stay in the leadoff spot. Michael Conforto batted cleanup on Tuesday, so Bruce sat against Smith. Callaway plans to put Bautista to work.
“We had three outfielders on the roster before we got him,” he said. “We’re going to use him to spell guys, and get in there and hopefully do some damage. We’re going to need consistent days off for three of those guys, so it’s probably three times a week, at least, he’s going to get in there.”
Bautista is the third Met on the roster well into his mid-30s, joining Adrian Gonzalez, 36, and Jose Reyes, 34, who made two errors on Tuesday and is batting .145. The Mets are not the Nationals, who just called up the 19-year-old Juan Soto, or the Braves, who recently promoted the 20-year-old Ronald Acuna Jr. They are not the Phillies, who have nobody on their active roster over 32 years old.
They are the Mets — old in some places, and flawed. But they are also still over .500, at 24-20, with two truly elite starters in Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. They are 18-3 when scoring at least four runs, so taking a chance to improve their offense was an easy and obvious move.
The Mets’ hopes hinge much more on the progress of their other three starters — Steven Matz, Jason Vargas and Zack Wheeler — than on complementary pieces like Bautista. Vargas looked good on Monday and Wheeler was solid in defeat on Tuesday, but collectively, those three are 4-10 with a 5.79 earned run average.
Bautista might not be finished as a productive player, but even if he is, he will not hurt the Mets very much. If the Mets cannot count on Matz, Vargas and Wheeler, though, their playoff chances may be irreparable.