Mark Vientos’ Future Is In His Hands for the New York Mets Tonight

Mark Vientos' walk-off heroics on Sunday opened an opportunity for Monday's performance to create some clarity on where his career goes next.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 28: Mark Vientos #27 of the New York Mets celebrates his walk-off two-run home run in the eleventh inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field on April 28, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Baseball is often cinematic, but not actually a movie. Rarest are the days when a clear moment presents itself for a player to change the trajectory of their entire career. But Mets third baseman Mark Vientos has mashed his way into one such moment tonight versus the Cubs. No pressure.

Vientos has been trying to force the Mets to see him as a part of their future for the last two years. He has always lacked the prospect pedigree of his teammate Brett Baty, always carried 4A risk and concerns about positional fit.

He’s taken the challenge seriously, inching his defense at third closer to respectability. But it has always been about the bat. Vientos appeared ready to break camp as the Mets DH going into this season, a show of faith from the team’s new leadership in team president David Stearns and manager Carlos Mendoza. We all know what happened.

The Mets took advantage of an oppressive market for veteran free agents and signed J.D. Martinez to a one-year deal, seemingly pushing Vientos to a bench role before actually bumping him back down to Triple-A before the start of the season. Even with Martinez needing time to get ramped up. 

Ad – content continues below

Everyone becomes an expert in psychology and body language in those tense moments when things don’t go right for an athlete and the cameras are on them. Mark Vientos briefly became the main character of Mets Twitter for how he handled the Martinez signing and the demotion.

It is what it is, Vientos strayed from the Crash Davis interview cliches and some of us lost our ability to empathize with someone who felt like they had just lost their job and maybe their future.

The most important thing is Vientos went down and he raked like he always has in Triple-A.

This weekend, when he got a chance to come back to New York on a seemingly short-term engagement with Starling Marte on the bereavement list, Vientos did so with focus and intention.

And he got big results, going 3-for-4 in two pinch-hit appearances including Sunday’s thrilling walk-off home run.

You don’t have to be an expert in reading people to understand what that meant for Vientos as he floated around the bases, roaring with excitement as he approached the crowd and took in all the love from his teammates and the cheering fans. Validation? Sure. He knows he can play at this level and, in that moment, everyone in the Mets sphere did as well. But that was yesterday.

Ad – content continues below

After the game, Mendoza happily announced that Vientos’ heroics had earned him a start in tonight’s game. The latest old-school nod from a rookie manager who keeps making the right baseball decisions, toppling the narrative that he was brought in as a petty functionary guided only by data. For Mark Vientos, tonight is guaranteed, but what happens when Marte comes back and the team needs to make a cut?

The Mets have a problem on their hands. Joey Wendle, a veteran infielder, might be the odd man out if not for the fact that he’s the team’s only Major League option to backup Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil up the middle. DJ Stewart has an option and a .204 average, but (points at Jonah Hill) “he gets on base.”

It was always going to be about Brett Baty vs. Mark Vientos. Baty, to his credit, seemed to separate himself from concerns about flagging confidence in the early season.

Despite his abysmal performance last year, I don’t think anyone thinks he isn’t more stuck in a poorly timed slump than showing insurmountable flaws in his game, particularly when it comes to showing the kind of in-game power that Vientos seems to have an easier time accessing.

But the Mets are embracing the “competitive” mantra from management, streaky but exciting with the chance to be a stubborn presence in the playoff race all season. And so it’s Baty vs. Vientos right now, and Stearns and company may need to make a choice that defies their own expectations and send Baty down, possibly piercing the bubble of his enhanced confidence and creating more of a project for themselves to get him turned around. In a way, it’s out of their hands.

If Vientos comes through tonight against the Cubs, riding the momentum of his epic moment on Sunday afternoon, the Mets will have no real choice. Another Vientos blast, a 2-for-4 day, even a couple of loud outs that hit triple-digit exit velo could clinch a continuing spot at third base for Vientos, while punching Baty’s ticket to Triple-A Syracuse.

Ad – content continues below

Similarly, if Vientos looks overmatched at the plate or, even worse, in the field, it could sour what feels like a fairytale comeback, dooming him back down to Triple-A with a renewed question about how, exactly, he can find a permanent way to Major League playing time. 

Like I said, moments like this are rare. In the abstract, tonight could make Mark Vientos’ whole career, clearing a path for him to run with an opportunity. It could also push him to say something on his way out the door or sulk and suffer in his performance at Syracuse, putting him in a different, less becoming light to the Mets and the league, in general.

Is he a legit power bat for the Mets, organizational filler, trade bait? Anything can happen, but as with Sunday afternoon, the bat is in Mark Vientos’ hands and the ball is in his court. He has to like those odds.