Mets infielder Ji-Man Choi looks on during a spring training...

Mets infielder Ji-Man Choi looks on during a spring training workout Saturday in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Whatever competition exists for the last spot on the Mets’ bench got more crowded Saturday.

The Mets signed Ji Man Choi to a minor-league deal with an invitation to major-league spring training, adding the first baseman/DH to a small group competing to be a bat off the bench (and potentially absorb some DH playing time).

DJ Stewart, a rightfielder who had a strong second half last season, also is in that picture. The Mets are free to option him to the minors, though.

“I’m not necessarily going to say with [only] Stewart, but he’s competing here in camp for that,” manager Carlos Mendoza said. “Like we’ve been saying all spring and all offseason: There’s competition, whether it’s that bat off the bench. He’s right there in the mix.”

Choi, a 32-year-old lefthanded hitter, was injured and ineffective for much of 2023, which he split between the Pirates and Padres. In the years before that, he was a steadily above-average hitter, especially against righthanders.

Mendoza and Choi overlapped with the Yankees in 2017, when Choi spent most of the year in Triple-A and Mendoza was a minor-league instructor.

“The way he controlled the strike zone [stood out],” Mendoza said. “Obviously, there is power. He’ll give you quality at-bats . . . I know who he is as a player, as a person, and I’m excited to have him here in camp.”

Little brother, big city

A highlight of the offseason for Luisangel Acuna: his first-ever trip to New York City.

He was part of a large contingent of friends and family who were present to watch his brother, Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr., receive the 2023 NL MVP Award at the annual awards dinner held by the New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America late last month.

“It gave me goosebumps, because not everybody wins an MVP,” Luisangel Acuna said through an interpreter. “To see my brother win it was really special.”

The only site he went to see while in the Big Apple: Citi Field.

“That’s what I’ve wanted to do since I’ve been traded here,” said Acuna, acquired by the Mets last summer when they sent Max Scherzer to the Rangers. “The stadium was beautiful.”

Acuna, who will turn 22 next month, very much looks up to Ronald but is a different caliber of player.

In Double-A last year, he batted .294 with a .769 OPS (much worse after the trade). He described defense as his best asset and he said he expects to settle in long-term at second base. The Mets plan to have him split time between second and shortstop during camp.

“With my brother, there aren’t many people that can compare,” he said when asked how he stacks up. “My brother is a talent that you see every 100 years. I’m going to continue to go out there, I’m going to continue to compete and do what I do.”

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