|Brandon Nimmo connecting on a single on September 18 against Pittsburgh. Photo by Jason Schott.
Mets center fielder Brandon Nimmo will be returning to Queens on an eight-year, $162 million contract, according to reports.
With the money that's being thrown around this offseason, that is a veritable bargain, especially for a player coming off his best season.
Prior to 2022, Nimmo was regarded as a great defender but a very light hitter, with the upside that he can walk a lot.
Last season, he improved immeasurably with Buck Showalter as the new Mets Manager. Arguably, his game took the biggest jump of anyone on the Mets, with Pete Alonso probably after him with how he improved on defense and became a complete hitter.
Nimmo hit .274 with 16 home runs (second in his career to the 17 he hit in 2018) and 64 RBI (by far a career high past his prior high of 47, also in '18), a .367 on-base percentage, and a .433 slugging percentage, with 71 walks and he struck out just 116 times in 151 games.
The 29-year-old, who was originally drafted by the Mets in 2011 out of high school in Wyoming, was a steady presence at the top of the Mets lineup, and was followed for most of the season by Starling Marte, Francisco Lindor, and Pete Alonso, forming one of the best lineups in the National League on their way to 101 wins.
Nimmo's play of the year came on August 31 when he robbed the Los Angeles Dodgers' Justin Turner of a home run in a 2-1 Mets win in what was a battle of the National League's two best teams.
This was my column from the next day, September 1, and it encapsulated how far Nimmo grew to that point in the season, with quotes from Mets Manager Buck Showalter:
The influence of having Buck Showalter as Mets Manager has been felt this season, with so many players growing leaps and bounds, perhaps none more so than Brandon Nimmo.
"Nim's a pro, I mean he's very quietly establishing himself as a guy you can count on every day," said Showalter of the six-year veteran center fielder, who has always been known as a solid defender and a quality leadoff hitter.
This season, Nimmo is hitting .266 with a .355 on-base percentage and a .416 slugging percentage, with 12 home runs, 44 RBI, 52 walks, and 79 runs scored. Most astounding is that he has 126 hits in 122 games, more than one per game. For perspective, that is just seven hits fewer than Jeff McNeil, who has 133 hits in 117 games.
On the defensive side of the ball, he has only built on his already stellar play, and his running catch to rob a home run from Justin Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night was proof of that.
With one out in the seventh inning, the Mets up 2-1, and starting pitcher Jacob deGrom on the mound, Turner connected on a blast to deep center that Nimmo tracked down and leaped over the fence to haul it in.
"What a play," Mets Manager Buck Showalter said of Nimmo's new play of the year. "You know, you look at minor league players, one of the questions I ask is can they turn hits into outs. I never ask, can they turn home runs into outs, maybe I should. I don't have much to compare it to; some guys talk about how much Nim has grown every year he's been here, great play, great play...
"One thing about Nim, and we've got a lot of them, is he's very sincere, you know, if he feels something he's gonna show it, and sometimes he wears some things that aren't productive to the club. Nim's a pro, I mean he's very quietly establishing himself as a guy you can count on every day
To show you how good Nimmo is, it appeared that he had it all the way, and Showalter said of that, "I've seen it a few times this year, and not one quite with the - but the reason it was tough was there was no hang time, it was pretty much, it didn't lay up there, where you could get to the fence and time your jump. Sometimes, if you do it right, you could use the fence to raise yourself a little bit. It was all a timing thing, and he's played that center field so much, that's why I'm always pushing for standardized warning tracks; some warning tracks aren't as wide as others, which is silly. Our guys know, in this ballpark, once you get to center how many steps you got...It takes a lot of knowledge of your field and how many steps you got and the timing, I think the toughest part was that it didn't hang up there. he had to totally commit to ti and it was a huge play."
DeGrom then struck out Gavin Lux, his ninth strikeout of the night, to end the inning. That was the last out of the night for the Mets ace, the first time he completed seven innings in a start since he returned from injury in early August, as the Mets went on to win, 2-1.
Showalter said the Nimmo catch gave his starting a pitcher a boost.
"Then you see Jake kind of take it to another level with the next hitter. Jake was the difference in that game, you've got two really good pitchers having a great year (deGrom and Los Angeles' starter Tyler Anderson), knew that coming in that runs were going to be at a premium," said the Mets skipper.
"I think, after the lack of a home run that Nim took out, took away, you see Jake kind of step back and I was looking at some of the velocities, some of the finishes on his pitches, not that they weren't there, but he was in, 'okay, I'm emptyting the tank here' (mode) and you try to read that sometimes with pitchers. You can tell when they're emptying the tank, and that's kind of where they are.
"I actually thought Nimmo's catch kind of elevated his game a little bit in a time where he might have gotten a little weary, I'm not saying he was, but the exhilaration of that catch kind of got him re-juiced.