Mets and center fielder Harrison Bader agree to 1-year deal for about $10 million, AP source says
Center fielder Harrison Bader and the New York Mets have agreed to a one-year contract for about $10 million, according to a person familiar with the deal.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because the move was pending a physical and had not been announced by the team.
Bader, a Gold Glove winner with St. Louis in 2021, returns home to New York after spending a little more than a year across town with the Yankees. He was acquired from the Cardinals in an August 2022 trade for pitcher Jordan Montgomery and then claimed off waivers by Cincinnati on Aug. 31 last year.
The 29-year-old Bader batted .232 with seven homers and 40 RBIs during an injury-plagued season with the Yankees and Reds. He had a .622 OPS in 98 games and a career-best 20 stolen bases in 23 attempts.
He became a free agent in November after completing a $10.4 million, two-year contract he signed with St. Louis.
Bader is a .243 career hitter with 59 home runs and a .706 OPS in seven big league seasons with the Cardinals, Yankees and Reds. Injuries have hampered him, but he offers speed and elite defense in center when healthy, along with an .824 career OPS against left-handed pitching.
With the Mets' pitching staff a major question mark, new president of baseball operations David Stearns has emphasized defense when adding depth this offseason. The team signed utility infielder Joey Wendle to a one-year contract and obtained athletic outfielder Tyrone Taylor in a trade with Milwaukee that also netted right-hander Adrian Houser.
Bader's arrival could shift Brandon Nimmo from center field to a corner spot, at least part-time. All-Star right fielder Starling Marte, who is 35, played only 86 games last season following double groin surgery and posted a measly .625 OPS, so New York is not exactly sure what to expect from him in 2024.
Marte played his first game of winter ball Wednesday night in the Dominican Republic and went 1 for 3.
Bader was born just north of New York City and went to high school in the Bronx. After joining the Reds for their playoff push late last season, he expressed a desire to return to his hometown Yankees someday.
Maybe the Mets were the next-best thing.
Bader strained a left oblique muscle in spring training last year and didn't make his season debut until May 2. He was sidelined between May 29 and June 20 with a strained right hamstring, then went back on the injured list Sept. 18 with Cincinnati due to a right groin strain.
Bader was out with a foot injury when the Cardinals traded him in early August 2022 and didn't make his Yankees debut until Sept. 20 that year, batting just .217 with nine RBIs in 14 regular-season games for New York.
But he had a huge 2022 postseason, hitting .333 (10 for 30) with five home runs, six RBIs and four walks in nine games against Cleveland and Houston.