WASHINGTON – Even a strong track record against a starting pitcher can’t get Keon Broxton into the starting lineup.
Despite reaching base in nine of 13 plate appearances against Patrick Corbin, Broxton did not start for the seventh straight game Wednesday, and 10th straight day.
Corbin wound up striking out 11 over eight dominant innings of one-run ball, as the Mets lost to the Nationals 5-1.
Broxton, who did not appear in Wednesday’s game, last started May 5 against Milwaukee, and his lack of playing time brings his job security into the spotlight with a position player soon to be ousted from the roster.
“He’s got to continue to plug along, and when he gets at-bats, go up there and continue to battle,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said before the game. “Get out there, embrace the role, which Broxton is doing 100 percent, brings energy every day and have success in that role when you have that chance and maybe more playing time presents itself.”
The Mets acquired Broxton from Milwaukee this offseason in a 3-for-1 trade to give them insurance against Juan Lagares’ injury history, but he has failed to make an impact.
The 29-year-old Broxton is slashing .152/.220/.174/.394. He had one game-winning hit earlier this year against Washington, but that has been his lone highlight.
While there are not many clear spots to use him since the Mets are going to start Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto most nights, it’s noticeable how little Broxton has played over the past few weeks. Lagares starts over him when a backup is needed, and even on a day when it's a plus matchup for Broxton against Corbin.
Lagares, albeit in a small sample size, has not fared well against Corbin. He went 1-for-3 with a run scored and a strikeout in Wednesday’s loss.
“Lagares obviously has performed when he’s been there probably better than Broxton at this point. That’s just how it goes. Lagares’ defense in center. It’s more about Lagares than what Broxton has or hasn’t done,” Callaway said. “(Broxton will) get in there and help us win the game in some fashion whether it’s stealing a base or playing defense in the outfield. I think he understands that.”
The Mets are going to have to decide soon whether or not they feel Broxton is worth carrying on the roster even if they rarely use him.
The four position player candidates to be removed from the roster are Broxton, infielder Adeiny Hechavarria, infielder Dom Smith and infielder J.D. Davis.
The Mets previously optioned Smith when they had to create a roster spot, but they were also burned by not having a lefty bench option in a 3-2 loss to the Padres on May 8.
Davis appears to be safe for the time being since the team needs a regular third baseman, and Todd Frazier has struggled. The Mets can pick their spots with Davis and Frazier.
Hechavarria has already given the team advance consent that he will go to the minors, but the team risks losing him since he would have to be outrighted off the roster. It’s unlikely he would be claimed due to his $3 million base salary, but it’s a possibility.
Broxton has no options and thus would have to be designated for assignment, which would open the door for another team to claim Broxton. One external source did not think teams would claim Broxton, while another source said he could see it happening.
The Mets also have to factor in that Broxton could slide into Lagares’ role next year since Lagares is in the final year of his contract. Broxton could serve as the late-inning defensive outfielder at a reasonable price, and he’s under team control through 2022.
The team has already shown a willingness to focus on the current roster rather than those down the road as shown by letting Pete Alonso start the year in the majors instead of the minors, and a source said the team wouldn't be afraid to make a move that could affect the future if it improves the current roster.
The lack of options, though, does help Broxton's cause at a time when the team isn't affording him at-bats.