One of the only disappointing things about the Mets historic start in 2018 is the position of catcher.
Mets catchers have hit for a combined .160 batting average and .603 OPS through the first 16 games of the season, which is the third worst mark in the majors, and have provided very little run production at all, driving in just five runs so far.
Debatably even worse, however, is the defensive production the Mets have found from that spot. Opposing base runners are 21-for-24 when attempting to steal a base against the Mets, and one of the three caught stealings weren’t even from a catcher, but from a pick-off.
With that being said and the team’s top two catchers on the DL, it may be time for Sandy Alderson to pick up the phone and make a move to improve at the backstop.
The most obvious trade candidate would be Miami’s J.T. Realmuto. Realmuto, 27, has made it clear that he wants to be traded from Miami ever since the team’s fire sale in the offseason, as they traded four of the team’s best players. But would this be the sure answer? Let’s weigh out the pros and cons of acquiring him.
Yes, Realmuto is also a great offensive catcher, and I will get to that, but with the defense being such a glaring hole, his defense becomes the biggest plus if a deal were to be made. In 2017, Realmuto threw out 32 percent of runners attempting to steal a base, and in 2016, that mark was at 35 percent.
For comparison, the league average over the past two years has been 27 percent, which makes him well above average in that category, and nearly elite.
Especially when you consider that he has thrown out more base runners in that time than guys like Buster Posey, Jonathan Lucroy, and yes, even Yadier Molina. His presence alone will make the pitchers more comfortable, and make the running less of a weakness.
Additionally, according to Baseball Prospectus, Realmuto had the most framing chances in baseball in 2017 with 8,394. His Called Strikes Above Average (CSAA), an important statistic BP utilizes clocks in at 0.006. This is coupled with 8.3 framing runs.
The guy is top 10 in the league defensively according to BP, which would be a tremendous upgrade for the Mets.
When it comes to catchers that are both above average offensively and defensively, a very short list can come to mind, and no matter who you ask, J.T. Realmuto is on that short list.
He is a guy that has just does everything well at the plate: a career .281 hitter that easily has 20 HR potential as long as he can stay healthy. Last season he drove in 65 runs on a team that desperately struggled to score runs from guys not named Stanton or Ozuna.
Put him in a lineup with some true fire power and high scoring run potential, and you’ll have one of the most productive catchers in all of baseball. Along with his bat, Realmuto is also incredibly athletic, and fast for a catcher, as he has stolen 28 bases over the past three seasons, which is most by a catcher in that span. He would immediately be a potent part of the middle of our lineup.
Realmuto is in his age 27 season, and with the way the MLB’s arbitration system works, is under team control through the 2020 season, where he will be just 29 years old. Making him a very talented, young, and cheap option for the team for the next couple season after this one.
Coming Off Injury
He has played just three games this season after missing time with a back injury, and with catchers, the two injuries you want to avoid as much as possible are back and knee injuries.
Realmuto suffered a lower back contusion after he collided with Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres early in Spring Training. The injury required Realmuto to miss about five weeks of action and does not appear to be serious, however still something to keep in the back on any GM’s mind.
Will Require a Haul
Clearly, J.T. Realmuto is an attractive piece that the Marlins have, and other teams want.
He is a young catcher, that is a plus defender and bat, that has team control for almost three full seasons and will be a cheap player that can play 140+ games a year, barring injuries. With Miami being in the complete rebuild of the organization, and with the Mets being in their own division, this will not be an easy deal to make.
I’m no master with trades (and my fantasy baseball trade history will prove that), but if I were to give my guess at what it would take to acquire his talents, I think you’re looking at something like: Dominic Smith, Tomas Nido, Gavin Cecchini and Thomas Szapucki. I know it sounds like a hefty haul, but to acquire a guy like Realmuto, it will take a lot.
Acquiring a player of Realmuto’s caliber instantly not only makes us a better team, but also sends a message to all of baseball that the New York Mets are competitors in 2018 and beyond. Will it take a lot? Yes. Are they’re cheaper options out there? Definitely. But THIS is the move that will send the strongest message around the league.