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New York Mets Should Upgrade The Catcher Position Over the Winter

Even though the New York Mets dropped a rare series yesterday, they have still played very well in the second half. Behind a brilliant rotation, the Mets have played winning baseball in the second half, giving their fans some hope that things can improve in 2019. Having a very talented collection of starters helps, but the Mets need to make some significant investments to improve the roster around the rotation. One area that sticks out like a sore thumb is catcher, where the Mets have struggled to find a consistent starter for years.

Sep 19, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies catcher Wilson Ramos (40) walks to the plate to bat during the fourth inning against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets went into 2018 expecting the platoon of Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki to give them the combined production of a capable big league starter. That plan blew up in April, when d’Arnaud underwent season ending Tommy John surgery and Plawecki missed several weeks with a broken bone in his left hand. The Mets added Devin Mesoraco to the mix and he got off to a hot start, but cooled off significantly in the second half before suffering a neck injury. The catching has fallen to a combo of Plawecki and prospect Tomas Nido, which has been serviceable but can definitely be upgraded. Let’s look at the stats from the current Mets’ backstops.

d’Arnaud: 4 Games, 15 At Bats, .200 Batting Average, 1 HR, 3 RBI’s, .650 OPS

Plawecki: 72 Games, 214 At Bats, .220 Batting Average, 6 HR, 27 RBI’s, .712 OPS

Mesoraco: 62 Games, 194 At Bats, .211 Batting Average, 9 HR, 26 RBI’s, .678 OPS

Nido: 32 Games, 79 At Bats, .177 Batting Average, 1 HR, 8 RBI’s, .458 OPS

Jose Lobaton: 19 Games, 46 At Bats, .152 Batting Average, 3 RBI’s, .503 OPS

That’s an awful lot of mediocrity out of the catching position. Mesoraco was a worthwhile flier given his past as an All Star, but he is a free agent at the end of the season and shouldn’t be retained. d’Arnaud is arbitration eligible again and made $3.4 million this season, but with payroll tight the Mets may opt to non-tender him to free up money to invest elsewhere on the roster. Lobaton is a roster filler, so he should also be out the door as well. Nido has a chance to be a decent catcher down the line and has played well this month, hitting .233 with a homer and five RBI’s in September, but he clearly needs more minor league seasoning. Plawecki has been serviceable for most of the year, but he is likely a starter on a bad team and a backup on a good one.

Given those options, the Mets should seriously consider adding a veteran starter in free agency while keeping Plawecki as the backup. Luckily for them, the loaded 2019 free agent class has several viable options. One logical fit would be Philadelphia Phillies’ catcher Wilson Ramos, who has hit .315 with 15 homers and 68 RBI’s in 103 games between the Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays this season. The Mets explored a trade for Ramos back in April before landing Mesoraco, so there has been interest in the past, and he would be a nice veteran presence for the pitching staff. Ramos would likely command a two or three year deal worth $8-12 million per year, and the Mets should not be afraid to invest that much money in a 31 year old catcher.

Another player to watch is Los Angeles Dodgers’ backstop Yasmani Grandal. Grandal has hit .234 with 23 homers and 67 RBI’s in 131 games for the Dodgers this season, and he could add some power to a lineup that may feature more contact hitters next season. Another aspect of Grandal’s game that could help the Mets is his excellent defense behind the plate, specifically his ability to frame pitches, which has been graded highly. The Mets have hinted at putting more of an emphasis on defense to complement their young pitching staff, and adding Grandal would be a step in that direction. Grandal is younger than Ramos but not as complete a hitter, so the price tag on his contract could be slightly less.

Adding either one of those players would be a strong move for the Mets, who cannot go into 2019 hoping a combination of d’Arnaud, Plawecki, and Nido can approximate the production of a regular catcher. There are not a lot of places on the roster that the Mets can clearly upgrade given their long term commitments at other positions, so getting a catcher needs to be a top priority for them going into the winter.

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