The New York Mets filled a major offseason need recently by signing catcher Wilson Ramos to a two-year deal, which includes a third-year option. Not surprisingly, his presence on this roster is a huge upgrade over the incumbent duo of Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki.
Adding Ramos obviously brings about the question as to what exactly general manager Brodie Van Wagenen is going to do with three catchers on the big-league roster, none of which have any minor-league options remaining. BVW has mentioned the Mets could carry all three heading into 2019, pointing to d’Arnaud’s versatility with the glove.
That’s probably not going to happen, though, especially since there is “significant” trade interest at the moment. SNY’s Andy Martino specifically called out interest in Plawecki, which isn’t hard to see why. While one can argue that d’Arnaud’s ceiling is higher in an ideal environment, Plawecki is seemingly more durable, less expensive (projected to earn $1.3 million in ’19), and is under team control through 2021.
Trading from this area of the roster could help fill some depth in another place, like a left-handed reliever (as Martino mentioned), or a backup infielder or outfielder (as The New York Post‘s Mike Puma suggested). If we operate under the assumption the Plawecki will be traded since he could bring back a more significant return, that leaves New York with quite a bit of uncertainty behind the plate.
Ramos did appear in 111 games last year, but has torn his ACL multiple times and spent time on the disabled list in 2018 with a left hamstring strain. While he insists he’s fully healthy heading into next year, there needs to be a plan in place if Ramos does get injured again. As we all know too well, counting on d’Arnaud to be the only legitimate and dependable option probably isn’t a great idea.
None of this is breaking news, but if Plawecki will be wearing a different jersey on Opening Day, the Mets need to have another option available in addition to Tomas Nido. He’s not exactly around for his offense, but he was basically a back hole in manager Mickey Callaway‘s lineup last season. Through 90 plate appearances, the backstop slashed a cringeworthy .167/.200/.238, which was good for just a 20 wRC+.
Nido has only accumulated 100 total plate appearances in the big leagues since debuting in 2017, so it’s worth noting that this isn’t much of a sample size to draw real conclusions from. Then again, counting on him in a worst-case scenario is another one of those “if” situations Van Wagenen has talked about trying to avoid in the coming year.
Adding to the catching depth is something that likely won’t happen until later in the winter, anyways. Most available backstops are going to hold out as long as possible for an MLB contract before settling for a minor-league one that includes an invite to big-league camp. Depending on how the market shakes out, there are a number of free-agent catchers that could still be available, like A.J. Ellis, Caleb Joseph, and a few others.
There aren’t going to be perfect options, but a veteran player with some kind of defensive track record will be helpful. Even if the Mets don’t do something prior to Spring Training, this would be something to monitor as position battles are won and players are either optioned or released from other organizations.
New York’s aggressive winter with regard to making major upgrades to important areas of need will allow the front office to continue inspecting other big moves while also building in some much-needed depth. We’ve already seen that happening with min0r-league signings of Rajai Davis and Gregor Blanco for the outfield. If BVW does trade either Plawecki or d’Arnaud, it’d be shocking to see him not make one or two depth signings at catcher, just in case.
After all, we saw that unfold right in front of our eyes last year. D’Arnaud only lasted four games before needing Tommy John surgery, and Plawecki landed on the disabled list just a couple days later with a fracture in his left hand. That left the Mets — who had gotten off to a good start — with Nido and Jose Lobaton as their only options for nearly a month prior to acquiring Devin Mesoraco.
That duo didn’t perform very well, and the last thing the Mets need in 2019 is for something like this to happen again without a more solid contingency plan to buy them time and figure out what exactly they can do to fix it, if necessary.