Lisa Pernice asks:
Now that Toronto got Buck, you think that we should try to get either d’Arnaud or Arencibia? If they didn’t have a logjam before, it looks like they have one now. What would the cost be?
Now that the Blue Jays acquired John Buck from the Marlins, do you think that the Mets have a good shot at attaining J.P. Arencibia? Though Travis d’Arnaud is a better option, it would be pretty unrealistic to acquire him. Arencibia is not quite as good defensively, but his offense more than makes up for it, plus he adds a right handed hitter to a lefty heavy lineup. He would be cheaper to acquire and even more so now that they’ve attained a couple of major league pitchers. I think someone like Mejia or Valdespin and some other decent pitching or position prospect could get this deal done.
Well, Lisa, I’ll answer part of your question with part of Ramon’s. Travis d’Arnaud is pretty unrealistic. I don’t think he’s untouchable, but catching is so thin across baseball, to acquire a catcher of his ability and prospect status would require a significant over-payment on the part of the Mets. D’Arnaud is simply a stud prospect. His full minor league slash line is .286/.343/.474, but more impressively, his high minors (AA and AAA) slash lines are even better. Combining for 37 home runs in only 769 plate appearances, he hit .311/.371/.542 in AA and .333/.380/.595 in AAA. He threw out 28% of potential base stealers in the high minors and has gotten better as he’s moved up. Baseball America ranked him as the #17 prospect in baseball before the 2012 season. John Sickles of www.minorleagueball.com ranked him #26 before the season and #18 in a mid-season revision and the #9 hitting prospect in a preliminary 2013 ranking. There are myriad scouting reports that praise his defense, his arm and his game-calling ability. He’s as close to a can’t-miss prospect as there can be given how shallow his position is.
Ramon, I think you’re being too kind about Arencibia’s defense. He’s not good at all. In 2011, CBS Sports ranked him as the worst defensive catcher in all of baseball and he hasn’t improved much, if at all. He’s on the wrong end of the passed balls and wild pitches lists, despite only catching 800 innings in 2012, fewer than many other catchers. I also think you’re being too kind about his offense, which is incapable of a defense. I think the offense you think “more than makes up for it” is a quick look at his home run total. For a catcher, it’s not bad, but you have to remember he plays in a middle-of-the-road park for hitters right now. How would his 23 and 18 home run seasons in Rogers Centre translate to an extreme pitcher’s park like Citi Field? No too favorably, and I haven’t even mentioned his career .222 batting average and .275 OBP. Those are pretty good numbers…for a pitcher. Josh Thole had better numbers in his miserable 2012 that’s the cause of this discussion in the first place.
I wouldn’t give up Mejia or Valdespin for Arencibia straight up, let alone adding more pieces. The Mets certainly need to upgrade the catching, but overpaying for d’Arnaud isn’t the answer, and I’d much rather Thole, despite all his struggles, over Arencibia. We’re talking a higher batting average, a higher OBP and better defense from Thole, plus a track record of even better performance than what he showed in 2012. Arencibia’s track record is about what you’re seeing right now.
There’s another element to this, besides the individual talents of the players in question, and, Lisa, it’s that there’s really no catching logjam in Toronto. Jeff Mathis was included in the package that went back to the Marlins in Tuesday’s blockbuster trade, so that leaves only Buck and JP as the probable candidates to go north with the team out of Spring Training. D’Arnaud is still in AAA right now and will likely start the season there. Former Marlin John Buck is only signed through 2013 and is a lame-duck backup to Arencibia right now. When d’Arnaud pressures the Jays into calling him up, it’ll likely be at the expense of Buck via trade, as opposed to Arencibia.
If the Mets have to trade for a catcher, I give the Reds a call and inquire about Devin Mesoraco. He had very solid minor league numbers, but was buried in Cincinnati and put up Arencibia-like numbers in his sporadic playing time.
The difference is that the jury is still out on Mesoraco because of his minor league track record and the fact that he hasn’t played every day in the big leagues. JP has, and maybe he improves slightly over time, but that still doesn’t give you a good catcher. Mesoraco can’t cost much, would definitely be cheaper than Arencibia, and still has a shot to be a solid catcher at only 24-years-old. If Dusty Baker won’t give him the shot, the Mets should. The minimal cost of acquiring him can’t hurt the team if he doesn’t work out.
Thanks for the questions, Lisa and Ramon. If the readers have any questions for the staff at MMO, click here to submit them.