Is there a spot for versatile Mercer to return in 2022?

PLAYER REVIEW: JORDY MERCER

Age on opening day 2022: 35

How acquired: Signed as minor league free agent, February 2021

MLB service time: 8 years, 156 days

2021 salary: $1 million

Contract status: Free agent

2021 stats: 46 G, 127 PA 118 AB, 13 R, 30 H, 7 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 0 SB, 0 CS, 9 BB, 34 SO, .254 AVG, .307 OBP, .364 SLG, .671 OPS, 85 OPS+, minus-1 DRS (at 2B), minus-1 DRS (at 3B), 1 DRS (at SS), 0.0 fWAR, 0.2 bWAR

Quotable: “He knows his role. He’s a utility guy, but he’ll play second, short, third. He’s a nice guy coming off the bench, because when we want to do something in-game, as I always talk about, he can play multiple positions.” - manager Davey Martinez

Thumbnail image for Mercer-Swings-Blue-Sidebar.jpg2021 analysis: Signed to a minor league deal in February, Jordy Mercer reported for spring training as an outsider looking to make an impression and perhaps squeeze his way onto the opening day roster as a backup infielder. And when Carter Kieboom failed to seize the starting third baseman’s job and Josh Harrison (who had been ticketed for a utility role) suddenly became an everyday player himself, the opening was there for Mercer.

Playing time was scarce, though, early on. Mercer started only four of the Nationals’ first 31 games. He did have his moments, most notably a memorable June 23 appearance off the bench in Philadelphia that included a late hit, a chopper to second base that kicked up left him bleeding from the mouth, then a line drive caught moments later to seal a wild 13-12 win. Even so, despite being on the active roster throughout, his first RBI didn’t come until a June 30 solo homer against the Rays.

As luck would have it, Mercer strained his quadriceps during that game and had to go on the 10-day injured list. And though he returned two weeks later, he was back off the roster again within a week with a calf strain. All this occurred just before the Nationals conducted their late July sell-off while most of the coaching staff tested positive for COVID-19. That left Mercer to serve as something of an honorary bench coach for Martinez for a week in early August.

He would finally be healthy again in September, and the Nats activated him off the IL and let him finish out the season on the big league roster. Mercer would start eight of the team’s final 17 games, including the entire final weekend series against the Red Sox after second baseman Luis García hurt his oblique.

2022 outlook: Mercer’s one-year deal has expired, so he’s a free agent now. He wouldn’t seem to figure into the Nationals’ plans next season, but he was popular in the clubhouse, and any veteran influence is appreciated on a team as young as this one figures to be.

It’s doubtful the Nats would offer him a guaranteed big league contract, but another minor league deal with an invitation to spring training carries no risk with it. If the already re-signed Alcides Escobar does end up as the opening day shortstop, they’ll need a backup infielder. If the club signs another shortstop, though, Escobar becomes the utility infielder, and that would seem to close the door for Mercer to make the roster as well.

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