Mets' Mark Vientos unbothered by continued rumors around free-agent DHs

JUPITER, Fla. – Frequently this spring, it seems, the Mets are publicly linked to a free-agent thumper who could impact their plans to use young players at designated hitter – J.D. Martinez and J.D. Davis are the primary recent ones.

That’s got to affect a guy who is hoping to get a real chance to show the Mets what he can do, right?

Not so, says Mark Vientos.

Even though Vientos acknowledges that it’s “100 percent” human nature to hear chatter that might affect you, he says he’s not letting any market rumblings cloud his mind. He’s too busy competing for DH at-bats and playing time at third base, along with Brett Baty, in Mets camp.

“I feel like whatever is meant to be is meant to be,” Vientos said Thursday morning in Port St. Lucie, before the Mets played a road game. If the Mets sign someone, he added, “then I guess there’s different things that are going to happen. But whatever is meant to be is meant to be.

“I don’t really mind it. I’m just here to play baseball.”

If Vientos were to let speculation bug him, he knows he won’t be helping himself. “That’s when you go down,” Vientos said.

SNY’s Andy Martino reported Wednesday that the Mets have checked in on Davis, but talks with Martinez have “never become serious.”

Mets manager Carlos Mendoza said he hasn’t talked to players such as Vientos about dealing with speculation. He said that players who might be affected by it must "continue what they’ve been doing. Control some of the things they can control and that’s going out there preparing, getting better, getting their at-bats, getting the reps.

“This was something that we talked to them from the very beginning and they’ve been great and whatever happens, happens. Our job is to, you know, put players in the best spot and continue to coach them and work with them.”

Whatever happens, some sort of reckoning is probably looming for the 24-year-old Vientos soon. The former second-round pick from back in 2017 played in 65 games for the Mets last year and probably should’ve received more consistent opportunities.

He hit nine homers and knocked in 22 runs, recording a .211 average and .620 OPS in 218 at-bats.

The Mets would be delighted if he seized his chance this year and it’s clear he wants to. But what happens if Vientos, not known as a splendid third baseman, doesn’t?

Entering play Thursday, Vientos was batting .206 with a .500 slugging percentage and three homers in 34 at-bats. The batting average isn’t great, for whatever that’s worth, but if he kept up that homer pace over 500 at-bats, he’d hit more than 40.

He strikes out too much – he fanned in 30.5 percent of his at-bats last year. The MLB average was 22.7 percent. But when he does make contact, Vientos is capable of hitting the ball hard. Among players with at least 100 batted-ball events, he was 17th in average exit velocity (92.5 miles per hour) – one spot ahead of Mookie Betts, though Betts obviously played much more than Vientos – and 21st in hard-hit percentage. Again, to make that effect, he’s got to make contact.

After he homered Wednesday night – his third in his last nine games – Vientos said, “I feel like I walk around here with a chip on my shoulder. I feel like I always got to prove times two. And I feel like I’ve been doing it, so just want to keep it up and keep proving myself and it’s not going to stop.”

He feels like that’s the way it’s been throughout his career, going back to when he was young.

“It goes from since I’ve been playing,” Vientos added. “I feel like I’ve always played with that chip. And I’ve always had that mentality of trying to go out there and be the best version of myself, for sure.”

Does he feel pressure, now that he could have a chance to play a lot?

“No,” Vientos replied. “There’s no pressure. I mean, I’ve been playing this game for a while now. You put the pressure on yourself. If you don’t want any pressure, you don’t have to have any.”