In January 2020, while filling out their minor league depth, the Mets signed former first round pick and versatile utility infielder Jake Hager to a minor-league deal. A minor league veteran of nine seasons, with four stints at the Triple-A level, the 27-year-old had never cracked the big leagues, and didn’t figure to have much upside left in him. He was brought in to be a utility man for the Syracuse Mets, only necessary for the MLB roster if the Mets needed to go deep into their infield depth.
Unfortunately, the 2020 Minor League season did not happen, but Hager was invited to the Mets’ alternate site in Brooklyn. A pandemic season with expanded rosters was probably Hager’s best chance of finally getting a call, but the Mets’ infield depth stayed relatively healthy over the 60 games and the team never needed to reach too far down into their depth.
The Mets chose to do Hager a solid and bring him back for 2021 on a minor-league deal with another invite to MLB camp. He is in the same situation this year, standing almost no chance to make the roster unless the team’s infield depth is annihilated by injuries or some sort of COVID outbreak in spring, but he’ll likely go to Syracuse and give Triple-A his fifth attempt.
Something that might help Hager get bumped up the depth chart is if he can finally figure out Triple-A pitching. In his four Triple-A stints in the Rays and Brewers organizations, the best wRC+ Hager ever put up at the AAA level was 76 in 2018. He has always been a light hitter, touted much more for his defensive versatility at shortstop, second, and third, but defensive versatility can only take you so far.
Mets fans probably aren’t too interested in seeing a situation where it would be necessary, but it would be a cool moment to see Hager finally realize his dream of putting on a big league uniform after a decade of grinding in the minors. Until then, he will continue trying to live up to the promise that earned him a first-round selection in the 2011 draft.