What Now, Brown Cow? (Catcher)

What Now, Brown Cow? (Catcher)

Mets

What Now, Brown Cow? (Catcher)

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With the off season now here, it’s time for Sandy Alderson to get to work. We’ll be moving around the diamond to see what challenges the Mets face for 2017, and see what we could do to help fix them, or perhaps mess them up even more. Look, we don’t get paid for this, so Sandy should listen to us at his own risk.

Catcher

The Catching position has been the lynch pin for the Mets during most of their winning seasons. Jerry Grote. Gary Carter. Mike Piazza. (Paul LoDuca could have joined that group if Guillermo Mota didn’t shake him off.) With the Mets back in the playoffs in 2015, Travis d’Arnaud seemed prime to take that next step, and if not exactly extending the lineage of Hall of Famers and fan favorites, he could have been that next catcher to provide high production and excellent catching skills to a championship team.

He came back from a minor league stint in 2014 to hit .258 with 10 home runs, and got hot later in the season. Then he started 2015 hovering at almost .300 before his hand was broken. He came back and hit some big homers down the stretch, and 2016 was supposed to be the year, finally, that he would be a consistent productive player. But instead, he got injured again laid an egg as his OPS dropped 196 points. Even worse than that was his defense as his stolen base rate isn’t getting any better, as his arm has shown to be extremely erratic. In short, his game isn’t advancing at an age where top prospects usually have long taken that next step. And the question for me is: as Travis heads into his 28 season, if it hasn’t happened yet when will it happen? And how long can the Mets be expected to wait?

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 24: Wilson Ramos #40 of the Washington Nationals looks on during a game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on April 24, 2015 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

MIAMI, FL – APRIL 24: Wilson Ramos #40 of the Washington Nationals looks on during a game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on April 24, 2015 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

If other positions in the lineup were more secure, the Mets could afford to be patient. But with Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker headed to free agency, they can’t. Most positions have the status quo as the best possible option, and catcher is one of the few positions that has room for a significant upgrade, so the Mets should probably think about it. Wilson Ramos is a free agent, and he hit .307 last season after eye surgery. It would be nice to steal a guy from them for a change. His last two seasons featured wild swings as his 2015 was awful, but before that Ramos has been consistently in the .260-.270 range.

A lot of the other options are dicey. Of the free agents: Matt Wieters  seems comfortable in Baltimore and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take another qualifying offer from Baltimore. Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s production spiked with two good seasons in Atlanta and Boston while he’s a .234 career hitter. Alex Avila hasn’t been the same since his concussion issues. Jason Castro also had one good season. Nick Hundley is intriguing but gets hurt a lot. And I forgot that Geovany Soto was still in the league.

The trade options are also scarce. Devin Mesoraco could probably be had cheap, but he has $20 million left on his deal in the next two years, and that’s a lot to pay for the one good season he had. Miguel Montero will probably be wheeled by the World Champion Cubs (three words I never thought I’d type unironically, but congratulations much the same), but at $14 million for next season, they might as well keep d’Arnaud. Derek Norris in interesting because he’ll probably make $4 million in ’17 after arbitration, and San Diego needs to make room for Austin Hedges. Norris is the last of A.J. Preller’s spending spree to hang around, which basically makes him Jamie Lee Curtis in the Halloween movies. He has some pop but probably won’t bat higher than .250 or so.

This might be d’Arnaud’s last chance to be a star, if he gets that chance. Either way there has to be more from the catching position in 2017 if the Mets have any chance to return to the playoffs. Ramos might be the best option, and hopefully he won’t be the back-up plan beyond d’Arnaud, and Cespedes for that matter.

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