MLBits: The Mets Almost Released Báez Last Season, Escobar’s Cycle, Dallas to the Desert, Stars on the Mend, More

You had to know that a trip to New York (even if it was on the other side of town) this weekend would bring back the questions about the thumbs-down snafu for Javy Báez. Now we’ve learned that the incident almost cost Báez his job with the Mets.

Mets Considered Releasing Báez After Thumbs Down Incident

Steve Cohen has made plenty of headlines since purchasing the New York Mets. He’s spent plenty of money to make the Mets contenders again. So, doing things that raise eyebrows isn’t something out of the ordinary isn’t a move that you can dismiss when it comes to Cohen, but would he have released a two-time All-Star that he traded former first-rounder Pete Crow-Armstrong for last summer for something as silly as flashing a pair of thumbs down to the Citi Field crowd? According to Mets beat reporter Andy Martino, it was a real possibility.

At the time, Cohen called the gesture “unacceptable” and hoped that it would serve as a “learning moment” for Báez.

“These are young guys, and sometimes we forget they are on a public stage and can make mistakes. They hit the third rail, though, by messing with fans. And it is unacceptable. Hopefully, this is a teaching moment, and they will learn from this.”

As Báez – now a Detroit Tiger – got ready for a game against the Yankees in The Bronx last weekend in his first trip to New York since he and the Mets parted ways after the 2021 season, reporters were quick to ask the Tigers shortstop to talk about the incident.

“Aw, really? You want to talk about that?” Báez jokingly responded to reporters about the approach.

Nonetheless, Báez answered questions on the misunderstood gesture that Báez maintains was more about helping his struggling teammate and friend Francisco Lindor who was slumping badly, than making a statement to the Mets fans at Citi Field. Although, Báez did highlight last season that he wasn’t a fan of the booing when bad and cheering when good dynamic that baseball players encounter.

According to Martino, the incident prompted discussions about releasing Báez last summer. Still, thankfully, cooler heads prevailed, and the Mets not only moved past the incident but even offered Báez a long-term deal to stay in Queens as their second baseman but were ultimately outbid by the Detroit Tigers by $15 million. The Mets were also pursuing Max Scherzer, Eduardo Escobar, Mark Canha, Starling Marte, and Kevin Gausman (who ultimately landed in Toronto), so they weren’t willing to match Detroit’s offer to Báez at the increased price point.

Either way, the incident is in everyone’s rearview mirror. Lindor is playing better this season, the Mets are leading the National League East, and Báez got the long-term deal he was looking for in Detroit. All is well that ends well, right?

Dallas Keuchel Inks Minor League Deal with Arizona

Dallas Keuchel wasn’t unemployed for long. The White Sox released the scuffling southpaw on May 28, and just over a week later, he’s heading to the desert on a minor league deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, according to Ken Rosenthal.

After signing a three-year, $55.5 million contract with the White Sox before the abbreviated 2020 season and faring quite well in his first year on the Southside, posting a 1.99 ERA in 11 starts, Keuchel has been pretty bad in back-to-back seasons since.  Keuchel owned a 7.88 ERA with 20 walks, 20 strikeouts, and six home runs allowed in 32 innings with the White Sox this season and was left out of the playoff rotation last season after posting a 5.28 ERA.

The move to Arizona reunites Keuchel with his old pitching coach from Houston, Brent Strom. Strom was Keuchel’s pitching coach for five seasons with the Houston Astros from 2014 to 2018, and Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen made it sound like that was a deciding factor in giving the veteran starter a shot.

“We’re always looking to add to our pitching anytime we can,” Hazen said. “(Strom) feels like there are some things to unlock with him. We’re going to take some time to try to put some of those things into effect. Obviously, he has a longstanding relationship with him. We’re going to see how that goes.”

According to Nick Piecoro, Keuchel will report to the D-Backs Spring Training facility and work with Strom by day and the Arizona Complex League by night. Keuchel won’t need much of a ramp up, considering he has been pitching this season for the White Sox, and his contract includes three opt-out dates (6/25, 7/3, and 7/11) where he can become a free agent if things don’t shake out the way he envisions in Arizona.

Pair of Stars on the Mend?

Baseball needs all the star power it can get these days (even though they hardly ever capitalize on it by simply marketing those players efficiently), so it’s nice to see a pair of them making their way back from injuries that have delayed the start of the 2022 campaigns. Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty – who hit the IL in March with shoulder inflammation – began his rehab assignment for the Cardinals over the weekend. Flaherty tossed three perfect innings for the Cardinals Double-A affiliate in Springfield while notching three strikeouts.

The Cardinals could use Flaherty as they jockey for position with the Milwaukee Brewers atop the NL Central standings. Entering play today, the Cardinals are only a half-game behind the Brewers for first place.

https://twitter.com/Sgf_Cardinals/status/1533843520309673984?s=20&t=nPuhQEVi9Rg1k4UxNpri6A

Over in the NL West, the Padres should be pleased that Fernando Tatis Jr. is taking ground balls as he works his way back from a fractured wrist suffered in a motorcycle accident. According to Dennis Lin of The Athletic, Tatis said his next wrist scan is set for sometime this week.

The Padres check in 2.5 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West, and getting Tatis back sooner than later will be a big boost to their hopes of overtaking (or maybe just keeping pace with) the Dodgers.

Eduardo Escobar Hit for the Cycle!

Eduardo Escobar became the first Mets player to hit for the cycle since Scott Hairston did it on April 27, 2012, on Monday night. Escobar also became the 11th Met in franchise history to achieve the feat and the player ever to hit for the cycle at Petco Park. Escobar accomplished the feat in a pretty impressive fashion, needing the triple (the most challenging leg) when he stepped into the batter’s box in the top of the ninth inning in San Diego.

Escobar singled in the first, doubled in the second, homered in the eighth, and tripled in the ninth to hit for the cycle in the Mets’ 11-5 win over the Padres. Escobar called the accomplishment “unbelievable” after the game.

“It’s unbelievable,” Escobar said. “It’s hard hitting the cycle at this level. I give the glory to God. I’m working really hard every year, so tonight is a special night for me. But most important is the win.”

Odds and Ends …

•   I haven’t gotten a chance to listen to this yet, but if you watched the 90s Braves, you’d probably enjoy this. I know I’ll be spending the afternoon listening to this.

•   Trevor Rosenthal showcased for teams at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens this afternoon. According to reports rolling in on Twitter, the Blue Jays and Mets are among teams with scouts in attendance.

•   Long-time Yankees broadcaster John Sterling will be scaling back his schedule significantly during the second half of the season, according to the Andrew Marchand of The New York Post:

•   An interesting exchange between The Athletic’s Sam Blum and Angels skipper Joe Maddon, who was apparently pretty frustrated after the Angels lost their 12th straight game on Monday night:

•   If the Celebrity Softball Game at the MLB All-Star Game is your cup of tea, Jess Kleinschmidt has you covered with a list of the participants. I’m not even going to lie, I used to love this event in the early 00s, but I haven’t watched it for longer than two minutes in probably a decade.

•  This is just good fun:

written by

Patrick grew up in Chicago's Bridgeport and Garfield Ridge neighborhoods before moving to the Western Suburbs of Chicago before eventually relocating to the Las Vegas area with his family in 2023. He started with Bleacher Nation in 2021 and has spent time as a Staff Writer and on the Chicago Blackhawks beat. He is currently a writer and editor at Bleacher Nation covering the Chicago Bears and the NFL at large and the author of the Bleacher Nation Newsletter. Patrick is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).

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