After nearly a year-long layoff post-ulnar reconstruction surgery last April, New York Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud played three innings in a “B” game in Port St. Lucie on Thursday, catching for Mets’ reliever Hector Santiago.
After the game, d’Arnaud spoke to the team’s media corps (video via Mets social media), seemingly barely able to contain his giddiness at being back in the saddle.
“It felt good. Felt good to finally be back out there, work with pitchers again,” d’Arnaud said. “[Santiago] definitely made it easy for me. It was a lot of fun. I’m so glad to be back out there.”
“I heard he swung the bat really well,” he said. “Felt great behind the plate, was throwing bullets down in between [innings].”
Ehalt notes that d’Arnaud is expected to make his Grapefruit League debut behind the plate this weekend.
Even before Travis d’Arnaud went down early last season with a partial UCL tear, the California native’s career had been marred and derailed by continued bouts with injuries.
Since making his MLB debut for the Mets in May 2014, d’Arnaud has made six trips to the disabled list for a litany of ailments (concussion, fractured finger, sprained elbow, rotator cuff, bruised wrist, UCL).
Surely, being unable to stay on the field consistently slowed d’Arnaud’s development to a crawl. But when healthy, the at-the-time perceived centerpiece acquired in the trade that sent then-reigning National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012 has had limited success.
Over his six-plus seasons in Flushing (397 games), d’Arnaud owns an unspectacular .245/.306/.406 slash line with 47 homers, 162 runs batted in, 65 doubles, a 16.9 percent strikeouts rate, 7.5 percent walk rate, .308 weighted on-base average, and 96 weighted runs created plus rating.
On the defensive side of the chalk, Travis d’Arnaud is known for his innate ability to frame pitches, racking up 32.5 framing runs above-average from 2015 through 2017 (254 games).
With general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s additions to the catching corps this offseason in expected starter Wilson Ramos and Jacob deGrom‘s de facto personal backstop, Devin Mesoraco, all but guaranteed spots on the team’s Opening Day roster, d’Arnaud — as most on this roster must do — will have to earn his spot and his share of playing time.
The Mets chose to tender d’Arnaud a contract this winter (one-year, $3,515,000) before he hits free agency after the season. But whether he remains a member of this organization through that time is yet to be determined.
The Kansas City Royals (Salvador Perez, UCL) and Oakland Athletics (Chris Herrmann, knee surgery) both lost their starting catchers within days of each other, with Perez’ injury expected to keep him on the sideline through Opening Day 2020.
While the Royals have been linked to free-agent backstop Martin Maldonado ever since Perez went down, the A’s currently have veteran Nick Hundley — who spent last year in San Francisco backing up Buster Posey — Josh Phegley, and Beau Taylor as their options. You’d have to imagine Travis d’Arnaud would be considered an upgrade to any of the Athletics’ current catchers.
Though, having a relatively cheap, relatively productive d’Arnaud on this roster in any capacity could be a great thing for a Mets team that knows how damaging injuries can be to a team’s contention prospects, and who’s already been stung by the injury bug this spring (Jed Lowrie, Todd Frazier).
Whether or not Van Wagenen and Callaway carry three catchers into Opening Day will be determined in short order, but if Travis d’Arnaud proves that he’s ready to play, the Mets would be left with a handful of options regarding how to move forward — always a good thing.