Posted on August 9, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
It didn’t take long for second baseman Joe Panik to find a job. On Tuesday, Panik was designated for assignment by the San Francisco Giants in a somewhat surprising move. But on Friday he found a new home with the New York Mets. The Mets signed Panik soon after he cleared waivers and immediately put him into the starting lineup for Friday’s game against the Nationals. The make room for Panik, the Mets cut ties with veteran infielder Adeiny Hechavarria.
When he was cut loose by the Giants this week, Panik had been in the midst of another disappointing season. The 28-year-old helped the Giants win a World Series as a rookie in 2014. He then made the All-Star Team in 2015 and won a Gold Glove in 2016. But it’s been all downhill since then for Panik. He posted a career low .639 OPS last year and took another step backward this season, hitting .235 with an OPS of .627. When the Giants acquired Scooter Gennett at the trade deadline, they no longer had use for Panik.
Meanwhile, the Mets hope that Panik can help fill the void at second base that was created with Robinson Cano’s recent injury. Cano suffered a strained hamstring last weekend and the Mets aren’t sure when he’ll be able to return. He’s likely to miss at least a few weeks and may not be ready to return until late in the year. With the trade deadline having passed, the Mets have limited options with regard to bringing in a replacement at second base, and so they’ll take a chance on Panik.
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Despite his poor offensive numbers, Panik is worth taking a chance on for the Mets. He’ll never provide much power, but he’s a capable contact hitter who should be in the prime of his career. Panik also grew up in the New York area and went to college at St. John’s, so coming home could be good for him. If nothing else, he will upgrade New York’s infield defense and give the Mets with experience being in a playoff race.
Before signing Panik, the Mets were using a combination of Hechavarria, Jeff McNeil, and Luis Guillorme at second base. McNeil is a natural second baseman despite playing mostly in the outfield this year. However, New York’s replacements for McNeil in the outfield were Juan Lagares and Aaron Altherr, two players who have failed to produce offensively this season. Guillorme hasn’t hit in the big leagues either. In that sense, Panik doesn’t have to do much to be an upgrade offensively while Cano is out.
Ultimately, this is a no-risk move for the Mets. They waited for Panik to clear waivers, so they are only paying him the league minimum while the Giants pick up the rest of his salary. Also, Panik has one more year of arbitration. If they see a role for him in 2020, they can keep him. Otherwise, Panik is purely a rental for a team that’s suddenly in the playoff hunt.
With six straight wins and 13 victories in their last 14 games, the Mets began Friday half a game out of a Wild Card spot. They are in the playoff race, and therefore, needed to do something to cope with the injury to Cano. Given his recent track record, there’s no guarantee Panik will make a difference. But there’s no doubt that signing him for the rest of the season is worth a shot.