Even while we’re in the midst of a successful start to the season, there’s always some room for improvement. And where our New York Mets are concerned, injuries and an overall lack of production have made the catching position a significant area in need of improvement.
Two weeks ago the Mets lost their primary catcher Travis d’Arnaud for the season after he was diagnosed with a torn UCL that required Tommy John surgery. Then less than 48 hours later, Kevin Plawecki took a 98-mph Tayron Guerrero fastball off his left hand and suffered a hairline fracture that could sideline him for three weeks or more.
“I think we’re comfortable for the very short term,” said general manager Sandy Alderson. “We’ll see how things go. We are going to certainly be aware of what else may be available out there, and we’ll monitor that market.”
However, while Alderson did keep open the possibility of trading for a frontline catcher, he also said that most teams are not looking to make a trade this early in the season but maybe a rebuilding team could be willing to do something.
“There are some teams that probably aren’t trying that hard, so I’m not sure the calendar is even relevant in those cases,” Alderson said.
Kristie Ackert of the Daily News reported yesterday, that sources are telling her that the Mets have not reached out to three AL teams with obvious matches for a catcher and that they have told teams that they plan to “stay internal for the time being.”
To the contrary, Mike Puma of the NY Post, heard the team is “kicking the tires” on potentially trading for a catcher, but that they have not found many available options yet, but they are not ruling out finding a match this early in the season.
I wonder if Sandy was referring to the Marlins when he said some teams are not trying hard (tanking), but I guess we’ll never know. 🙂
So in light of all this catching news, buzz, and speculation, let me run down some potential catching options that the Mets could sign or deal for, beginning with what will likely be the top option…
Now, here’s the obvious one. The Marlins are rebuilding and the Mets need a quality offensive catcher. It seems like a match made in Heaven. However, the Marlins are likely looking for more than the Mets are willing to offer and there is no confirmation he is even on the trade block. He’s hasn’t played this season due to a back contusion so it wouldn’t make sense for the Mets to acquire an injured backstop to replace their injured ones.
Realmuto, 27, has been one of the best catchers in MLB throughout the past few years, posting a .281/.323/.430 career slash line. He collected 31 doubles and 17 home runs last season while posting a 3.8 bWAR and he was one of the league’s top defensive catchers. He’s under team control through 2020, which probably adds some appeal for Sandy and his front office. His excellent offensive upside has put him alongside Gary Sanchez and Buster Posey as one of the top catchers in the game.
But does it make sense to trade away the farm to get a catcher, albeit an All-Star catcher? Now that decision is in Sandy Alderson’s hands.
Old-friend Rene Rivera signed a minor-league deal with the Los Angeles Angels last January and with Martin Maldonado projected to have the lion’s share of playing time, Rivera will spend most of his time sitting on the bench. Rivera is already familiar with the Mets pitchers, having spent 2016 and the majority of 2017 catching them. If the Mets can offer something useful to the Angels, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Rivera suit up in a Mets uniform again.
Now, this one is just a little bit of stretch. Most likely, the Rangers aren’t going anywhere this season. Their starting rotation is in shambles and they seem like a team that could start rebuilding soon. If they choose to do so, their catcher, Robinson Chirinos should be one of the first pieces to go. Chirinos has quietly emerged as one of the better backstops in baseball over the past few seasons. He’s always been hampered by injuries, but has been very productive when healthy, as shown by his .866 OPS and 17 home runs last year. However, he may not be the perfect fit as his defense is not nearly as sharp.
The Braves have a couple of catching veterans who both had late-career resurgences last year. Flowers posted an OPS over .800 for the first time in his career and Suzuki had career-highs in home runs and OBP. The issue here isn’t if they are available, but rather if the Braves would trade them to an intra-division rival. Once Plawecki returns, one of them could slot to the backup catcher role, which would allow Tomas Nido to continue his development in Vegas.
His stock has plunged over the last two seasons, but at $6.5 million dollars he could be an appealing options for the Mets. Lucroy has still maintained a solid on-base percentage and has long been a Sandy Alderson favorite. Great rep for his game-calling skills and he’s still sharp defensively. He could be the one that ends up in Flushing.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggested on Monday, that the Mets should give the Red Sox a call regarding Blake Swihart. The former top prospect has struggled over the past few seasons due to injury, but he’s finally healthy this year. Swihart is also very versatile, having appeared at four different positions in the past two years. Sure, his defense leaves something to be desired, but having his versatility on the team could be a huge benefit to the Mets. Swihart isn’t perfect, but he’s one of the better options on this list.
If the Dodgers are fighting for a pennant, would they trade one of their catchers? For the Mets’ sake, I would certainly hope so. Yasmani Grandal is a consistent veteran who’s trailed only Buster Posey in wRC+ by catchers who have had 1,000 plate appearances over the past three years. However, he struggled in last year’s postseason, which allowed Austin Barnes to take his starting spot. Barnes ran with it, excelling in the postseason and solidifying himself as an everyday player coming into 2018. Barnes has appeared at a couple of positions this year, which only increases his value.
The Nationals just released Montero, so the Mets could potentially sign him for cheap. However, with his ugly clubhouse reputation and offensive struggles over the past few years, he’s not an upgrade over any of the Mets in-house options either offensively or defensively. His caught-stealing rate would be a definite downgrade too, believe it or not.