Travis d’Arnaud is rapidly devolving into Cliff Floyd, the talented but seemingly perpetually injured outfielder who played for the Mets for four years between 2003 and 2006, only once eclipsing 114 games played in a single season. (Ironically Floyd was eventually replaced in LF on the roster with even more fragile Moises Alou, but that's another story for another day). Though still three years younger than Floyd was upon his arrival to the Mets, the fact remains that Travis’ high water mark of games played is just 108.
There are flashes to show you what he’s capable of doing. Last year, for example, in his mere 67 games he slugged 12 HRs and drove in 41 in just 239 ABs. Extrapolated over the course of a full season and he’d be challenging Buster Posey for the All Star berth.
With him once again on the shelf for what appears to be a catching related injury due to throwing, the question arises about his future with the ballclub. There are a few ways to go. You could hope his recovery proceeds and he returns to his customary place behind the dish. You could start grooming him for another position on the field that’s less strenuous (though a number of his injuries have been freakish in nature and not directly attributable for playing backstop). Or you could simply move on and plan for the future without him.
A participant in a Mets mailing list confided that the impingement in the shoulder caused a year-long recovery for him when the same injury hit (and he was not a professional ballplayer). That’s pretty scary stuff. There’s not been a whole lot written about the prospective recovery period for d’Arnaud nor what options exist – rest, surgery, etc – so it’s all a guessing game.
In the interim we once again have Kevin Plawecki receiving a much larger share of playing time than was originally forecasted when they penciled him in as the backup. Even if his gap hitting comes around, he’s not going to provide the run production expected from d’Arnaud. Plawecki’s best minor league season saw him deliver 11 HRs and 64 RBIs while hitting .309 between Binghamton and Las Vegas. As a career .290 hitter in the minors he’s likely better than he’s shown thus far. The hope is that with the off-season surgery his breathing problems are behind him and he can now produce at the big league level, too.
However, if he does not, what do the Mets do in the future about the catching position? Some people advocate defense first and a .250 average for a catcher. Is he a strong enough defensive catcher that replacement level hitting is acceptable? Do you roll the dice on finally getting a healthy year from d’Arnaud? Or is it time to start moving in another long term direction?
Personally, I would advocate a position switch for d’Arnaud. While 1B would be the best fit for someone who is recovering from arm problems, there’s a 6’5” obstacle in his way there. Most catchers do not have the foot speed to play the outfield, so it would appear he could be heir apparent to David Wright if 2016 proves to be the Captain’s farewell tour. You’d still have Wilmer Flores as a backup.
Of course, if Wright’s enormous salary comes off the books then they could go in another direction and perhaps try to ink Neil Walker to stick around to play 3B with Dilson Herrera slotting in at 2B. That would leave the Travis d’Arnaud question unresolved.
So is it time for the Mets to think about another catcher or is d’Arnaud still the man of the present and the near future?