Around this time last year, the impending lockout set up a Black Friday frenzy of free agent signings across baseball. The Mets were one of the more active teams in the fray and their spending spree culminated with the marquee acquisition of the offseason: Max Scherzer. But, it all started with Eduardo Escobar, who signed a two-year, $20 million contract with a 2024 option—giving the Mets an above average bat with some pop who could cover multiple infield positions.
When looking at his season with a birds-eye view, an above average bat with some pop is exactly what he provided. He basically Xeroxed his 2021 season in 2022, posting a 106 wRC+ and accruing 2.3 fWAR over 542 plate appearances in his first year as a Met. As it turns out, Escobar did not cover multiple infield positions for the Mets; he played all but two of his innings at third base. As expected, he was a passable, but below average defender there, putting up -6 Outs Above Average at the position, which was in the 8th percentile in baseball.
A more granular examination of how Escobar’s 2022 unfolded reveals a fast start and a torrid month of September with a long rough patch in between. After posting a 137 wRC+ in April, he hit .209 with a 72 wRC+ over the next four months with only a short hot streak in July keeping him above the Mendoza line. Escobar’s summertime struggles were so profound that he eventually found himself in the short side of a platoon at third base with Luis Guillorme. Though Escobar is a switch hitter, the move to a platoon made sense, as he was much better hitter from the right side of the plate in 2022 than the left side. As a righty, Escobar posted a 132 wRC+ compared to a 94 wRC+ batting left-handed. The starkest difference in his platoon split was in the power department; his ISO was over 100 points higher as a right-handed hitter.
In mid-August, both sides of the third base platoon were felled by injury almost simultaneously; Escobar strained his oblique and Guillorme strained his groin. This opened the door for Brett Baty, who was promoted soon after to be the Mets’ every day third baseman. However, at the end of August, the injury bug came for Baty too and a torn UCL in his thumb ended his season. With Guillorme still on the injured list, Escobar then resumed everyday third base duties for the final month of the season.
Cue what Gary Cohen dubbed The Month of Escobar. Escobar experienced a renaissance in September, slugging .596 with a .982 OPS in the final 30 games of the regular season. Escobar’s 2022 oddly mirrored that of his team; he struggled as the Mets were riding high for much of the summer and when the Mets staggered the the finish in September just short of an NL East title, Escobar was suddenly firing on all cylinders. But whether he was raking or slumping, his positive clubhouse presence and infections childlike love of the game were constants.
Escobar goes into the second year of his contract on shakier ground than one year ago. He is likely to play a role on the 2023 Mets, but with Brett Baty knocking down the door to secure the starting third base job, Escobar may once again be relegated to sharing at-bats with Luis Guillorme and he also may need to return to utilizing more of his positional versatility.