One position the New York Mets need to upgrade this offseason is catcher after the group of Kevin Plawecki, Travis d’Arnaud, Tomas Nido, Devin Mesoraco and Jose Lobaton disappointed during the 2018 season.
The Mets catchers had a combined 0.4 fWAR this season, ranking 25th out of 30 major league teams. Their wRC+ tied them for 20th offensively, and their highest ranking catcher on defense was Nido at 26th among 117 catchers, according to Baseball Prospectus.
Lobaton and Mesoraco are both now free agents, and seem unlikely to return to the Mets. Nido has shown that his defense is MLB ready though the Mets will likely send him to Triple-A in hopes that his bat shows he could be more than that.
Plawecki had his second straight season of better than league average offensive production with a 93 wRC+ (catcher average 84 wRC+). Though, his defense – primarily his framing – tumbled to where he was ranked 93rd among catchers overall and his -4.6 framing runs ranked 101st.
That brings us to the disappointing d’Arnaud. His 2018 season ended back in April after needing Tommy John surgery. He played in just four games for the season after setting a career-high with 112 games played in 2017.
D’Arnaud’s a career .245/.306/.406 hitter in 397 games for the Mets since coming over from the Toronto Blue Jays in the R.A. Dickey trade. His strength as a catcher is framing, he ranked in the top 15 among MLB catchers in framing runs each season from 2014 through 2017. The obvious weakness defensively is his throwing, with -3.1 throwing runs in 2017 (108th out of 111).
The biggest problem with d’Arnaud has been consistently staying on the field. The 29-year-old missed significant chunks of time in 2015, 2016 and almost the entire 2018 season.
MLB Trade Rumors projects that d’Arnaud will make $3.7 million through arbitration for the 2019 season. That is too much for a player coming off TJS with the Mets needing stability at the catcher position. The Mets should non-tender him, if they whiff on the free agent market they could likely bring back d’Arnaud at a cheaper rate anyway.
Another reason to non-tender (deadline is Nov. 30) d’Arnaud is two good free agent options available in Wilson Ramos and Yasmani Grandal. If the Mets decided to go the defensive route in free agency they could choose between Jeff Mathis and Martin Maldonado. Or if they were looking for the older offensive-minded choice, Kurt Suzuki.
Veterans Rene Rivera, Brian McCann, Jonathan Lucroy and Nick Hundley are all free agents too, but none of them are coming off productive 2018 seasons. And of course, it sounds like Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto will be available via trade.
Plawecki is a solid major league depth piece, but if the Mets want to be contenders in 2019 then need more from the catcher spot. The market for catchers, while being top heavy, is actually pretty solid given the decline of the position as a whole.