The New York Mets have made exasperating moves and non-moves this winter. None of which anywhere near approaches the team’s inaction to replace their catcher, Travis d’Arnaud.
In December 2012, New York Mets fans will recall the team trading their Cy Young winner from the previous season, R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays. Most of the hype attending the deal was focused on the Blue Jays releasing their top-flight catching prospect, Travis d’Arnaud to the Mets.
The sleeper in the deal and one of the best steals ever made by Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, though, was Noah Syndergaard. From the beginning, the Mets bought into the hype about d’Arnaud, watching as he stumbled through five (yes, it’s been that long) seasons of injury prone and non-productive years behind the plate.
The talk has always been about the upside associated with the player and one day, d’Arnaud is going to prove the Mets right for sticking with him. Well, I don’t happen to know what you can say about a player with (now) almost 1500 plate appearances who sports a .243 batting average with a mere 46 home runs and 159 RBI. My math averages this out to about nine home runs and 35 RBIs a season.
Albert Einstein once said the definition of insanity is when you keep repeating the same thing expecting a different result. How is this not accurate when looking at the Mets catching position for the 2018 season?
You can do this with me if you want to. Here are the remaining free agent catchers still available for the upcoming season. Several have minor league status, so let’s put them aside. But of the remaining catchers, aren’t there at least a few you would take a second look at?
Let’s fast forward, though, to two players who stand out as a cut above d’Arnaud and the rest of the free agent pack. Jonathan Lucroy will turn 32 this June. He is a lifetime .281 hitter with a .343 on-base percentage. Will he make a difference in the Mets power-starved lineup? Hardly, but he is a professional hitter who will spray the ball around and help the team if he is placed correctly in their lineup.
The other and perhaps more interesting target for the team is Alex Avila, who recently was linked to the Yankees as a backup for Gary Sanchez. With Austin Romine in the mix for that job, those talks quickly died their due death.
Numbers compiled by Kunj Shah for SB Nation indicate a player who hit .264/.387/.447 with 14 home runs was good for a 119 OPS+ and 124 wRC+ in 112 games. Again, these are not numbers to salivate over, but they do rise significantly over what d’Arnaud has produced.
Neither Lucroy or Avila are expected to remain on the market for long. One-year deals are probable, and the price for either will not be beyond something even the Mets can afford.
The experiment with d’Arnaud by the team should have been over last season. The front office might have felt there was no one better to replace him, which was a stretch if Sandy Alderson had looked hard enough. Now, there is a short-range replacement for d’Arnaud with two proven, though not spectacular, major league talents.
Either can be the bridge holding the fort down until the Mets top catching prospect, Tomas Nido, is ready in a year or two.
Either way, (finally) d’Arnaud is not long for the New York Mets.