With Devin Mesoraco either on his way out of town in the coming days or after the season is over, the New York Mets will be back at square one at their backstop position once Spring Training rolls around.
New manager Mickey Callaway suggested that the two would play based on who was pitching for the Mets, not who was on the mound for the opposing team.
For the first few weeks of the season, we got a look at the dynamic duo in action together. That didn’t last terribly long. d’Arnaud played in just four games before he went down with a torn ulnar collateral ligament.
Plawecki slashed .150/.393/.200 from Opening Day through April 11, when he got hit in the hand with a pitch and missed over two months.
Lobaton hit .152/.264/.239 in 46 at-bats and Nido went 7-for-44. Needless to say, the Mets filled a glaring hole in their roster by acquiring Mesoraco.
Not only has he provided a .229/.307/.401 slash line with seven home runs and 24 runs batted in since joining the Mets, the team’s pitching staff has seen a considerable increase in productivity.
From March 29 until April 11, with d’Arnaud and Plawecki behind the plate, the team had a 2.47 earned-run average and went 10-1.
With Lobaton and Nido behind the dish from April 12 until May 7, the pitching staff owned a 5.09 ERA while going 8-14.
With Mesoraco and, since May 28, Plawecki at backstop (May 8 to July 29), Mets pitchers have a 4.44 ERA and lost nearly half of the games they played (18-35).
The conclusion that this writer comes to is that, whether the Mets have a $13 million per season catcher behind the plate in Mesoraco or a couple of arbitration-eligible backstops in d’Arnaud and Plawecki manning the position, there’s not going to be a huge amount of disparity.
Taking into consideration the amount of talent among the New York Mets starting rotation that we assume in 2019 will contain Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and, hopefully, Zack Wheeler, a competent catcher, or combination of catchers in the Mets’ case, should get the job done.
Travis d’Arnaud is making $3.475 million this season and will likely make just a tick more next season, his final arbitration-eligible season before becoming a free agent. You can go ahead and pencil him in there, even if he does start the season a little late while making his way back from Tommy John surgery.
Kevin Plawecki is earning just $557,471 this year and probably won’t make $1 million next year. For the .225/.316/.326 career slash line he’s brought to the team since making his debut in 2015, that’s a heck of a bargain. You can probably write Plaw’s name down in ink.
On Sunday evening, Tim Healey of Newsday released an article on Plawecki and got some candid statements from Callaway regarding the team’s outlook on the 27-year-old’s prospects of becoming “the guy” at some point in his career.
“There’s no reason he can’t be someone’s No. 1,” Callaway said. “I think we’re going to get to find out exactly what he can do some more this second half and continue to evaluate what we have.”
Callaway went on to lay some serious praise on Plawecki and even shed some light on the work that he’s been doing with his new partner in plastic, Devin Mesoraco.
“He has all the potential. He can lay off tough pitches. He’s got some pop. He’s got the ability to prepare well. He’s been doing a great job. I think Devin has really shown him the way in that regard. And he’s a smart kid.”
Mesoraco is a free agent after this season and, as noted, is making $13 million this season. Unless he’s willing to take a dramatic pay cut, he’s likely going to be moving on from New York after this season.
Our old friend Tomas Nido has been forging a path in Double-A Binghamton since being optioned when Plawecki returned. In 164 at-bats with the Rumble Ponies this year, Nido is hitting .293/.312/.463 with 17 doubles, three homers, and 23 runs batted in.
As long as he keeps progressing and can serve as a viable option if d’Arnaud isn’t ready for Opening Day 2019, the group of Plawecki, TdA, and Tomas Nido as the backup to the backup, the Mets could very well be all set at the position next year.
The free agent class of catchers set to hit the market next season is somewhat underwhelming. On the high-end, guys like Matt Wieters ($10.5 million in 2018), Wilson Ramos ($10.5 million), Yasmani Grandal ($7.9 million), Jonathan Lucroy ($6.5 million), and Mesoraco round out the group.
Plus, this current Mets ownership group is pinching more pennies than usual these days, so relying on affordable, consistently mediocre players and hoping for the best will likely be the chosen course of action, but we shall see.
All contract details via Spotrac.