Reese Kaplan -- Looking at 2019 -- C Options


Back when the Mets were formed there’s a famous story about manager Casey Stengel who was asked about his catcher, to which he replied, “I got a kid, Greg Goosen, he's nineteen years old and in ten years he's got a chance to be twenty-nine.”  He also offered up the opinion which has some merit as to why the club used their very first expansion draft pick on a catcher, “Without a catcher we'd have a lot of passed balls.”

These thoughts come to mind when you consider the state of catching for the New York Mets as they head into the 2019 season.  Not since Mike Piazza left the club for the San Diego Padres have the Mets had a steady presence behind the dish and in the batter’s box that wore the tools of ignorance.  Paul LoDuca, Brian Schneider, Omir Santos, Rod Barajas, Josh Thole, John Buck, Travis d’Arnaud, Rene Rivera, Kevin Plawecki and others have tried to fill those shoes to no avail.

This season the Mets suffered the indignity of losing not one but two catchers on the same day.  That development showed how very thin the club was at the position, going with a platoon of an over the hill AAAA player in Jose Lobaton and a not ready for prime time Tomas Nido.  It showed.

The trade of Matt Harvey to Cincinnati was done as much to send that particular sideshow out of town and allowed the Reds to get out from under one of their more ill-advised contracts to the frequently injured Devin Mesoraco.  In a rare trade that appears to show positive results for both sides, Harvey has started pitching better and Mesoraco almost singlehandedly took a problematic starting rotation and whipped it into an effective one.  Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz both took quantum leaps forward after his arrival, but as a pending free agent on a big money contract it’s likely 2018 is his swan song in Queens.

So what can the Mets do in 2019? 

Travis d’Arnaud is still Mets’ property in 2019 but a catcher coming off Tommy John Surgery who had throwing issues when healthy may not be a good bet for the future.  He’s shown flashes of his offensive potential (as recently as 2017 when he hit 16 HRs and drove in 57 in just 348 ABs) but at a salary expectation north of $4 million and no guarantee he’d be ready before the All Star Break, he’s a non-tender candidate if ever there was one.  He, Juan Lagares and David Wright vie for the most frequent flier miles on the DL. 

With Mesoraco’s handling of the pitchers (and the 7 HRs he’s provided in his brief Mets career), Kevin Plawecki has once again been relegated to the back burner.  He too showed flashes in 2017, finishing the year with a .260 average, but his 2018 output of .217 is pretty much in line with his career mark in the majors of just .221.  If the team said they were handing him the starting gig there would be a collective shriek from the fans that would surely shatter glass.

So who is available in the free agent class? 

The youngest option is the Dodgers’ Yasmani Grandal who has put together back-to-back seasons of 27 and 22 HR, while being on pace to do so for a third straight year.  At age 30, it’s possible a 3 year deal would be a good investment but he’s entering the market off a $7.9 million deal in 2018.  He’ll be looking for a raise.  He’s never hit for much of an average -- .240 for his career – so he’s another in that all-or-nothing mold.

Next up age-wise would be Mesoraco.  He’s more anemic at .233 for his career and as a Met he’s hitting .232.  Fortunately the Reds are paying the lion’s share of his $13 million salary which was the result of one solid All-Star season in 2014 when he hit .273/25/80.  He’s never come close to those numbers since, though he and Travis d’Arnaud can run neck and neck in the injury race.  He won’t get $13 million for sure, but how far would he drop?

Wilson Ramos will also be 31 and is picking the right time to have a great year.  Right now for the Rays he’s hitting .291/14/51 and earning $8.5 million.  He’s likely looking for the Mesoraco money next year which suggests he would not be someone the Mets would consider given their track record in free agent contracts. 

Switch hitter Matt Weiters has not lived up to his Baltimore day potential when driving over to join the Washington Nationals.  In fact, he’s lost his starting gig to a .171 hitting Pedro Severino.  His full season of 2017 yielded but .225/10/52, so Washington is clearly not getting $10.5 million per year in value.  His price is going to plummet and the odds are at age 33 he’s not going to get better. 

Jonathan Lucroy has been on a downhill slide since 2016 and is currently sporting a meh .245/1/25 line for Oakland.  He’s earning $6.5 million and likely will get less as he enters his age 33 season.  Personally, I think that ship has sailed.

Some good hitting catchers getting a bit long in the tooth include Brian McCann turning 35 and Kurt Suzuki will also turn 35.  McCann earns big money and there’s a $15 million plus option on him.  Suzuki is hitting .275/8/31 and earning just $3.5 million.  Methinks that’s the Wilpons’ kind of player. 

Personally I think the Mets need to prioritize catchers in any trade talks this month.  Neither Nido nor any of the AAAA castoffs are solutions and Kevin Plawecki has not yet shown anything significant.  Whether it’s the Indians’ Francisco Mejia, the Dodgers’ Keibert Ruiz or the Orioles’ Chance Sisco, the Mets need a long term solution here and it’s not likely in-house. 


Tom Brennan said...

This team unloaded their better players cheaply and quickly and never seem to have a solid answer for acquiring winning players. Too bad Ali Sanchez seems like he wont be ready until 2020. He is having a very good and improved season in A ball, but Tomas Nido won a Single A bat title in 2016 but that has not proven to mean much.

Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez for reForm and Mesoraco?

Mack Ade said...

I just don't know how to evaluate this team right now. The front office is totally dysfunctional.

I would like to think that the 2019 catcher isn't on this team yet.

I would clean this position out by releasing in the off season d'Arnaud, Plawecki, and Mesoraco.

Lastly, I wouldn't sign someone over 30 to a multi-year deal.

I would be willing to give Nido a second chance before Mazeika is ready.

Mike Freire said...

I like the idea of a veteran catcher paired with Plawecki in a "platoon" of sorts.

To free up some cash, they can simply non-tender TDA (along with the savings from several other players moving on, like Familia) and invest in someone like
Wilson Ramos.

There are so many holes that need to be addressed, which is pretty sad.

I like your idea of prioritizing catching in any deals that are made, but I don't see anyone we can obtain who will be ready to start next season, hence the veteran pick up.

Mack's Mets © 2012