Wilson Ramos, Tomas Nido
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

While the New York Mets will be focusing the majority of their attention making upgrades to their pitching staff, the team could also be in need of an upgrade behind the plate for next season. 

Thomas Hall

This past season, the New York Mets‘ catching situation was anything but simple. Not only did the Mets endure a controversy with their catching duo, but they also received very little production from the catching position as well.

During the 2019 season, the two best starting pitchers in the Mets’ starting rotation became more comfortable pitching to backup catcher Tomas Nido, instead of starting catcher Wilson Ramos. Both Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard decided they preferred to have Nido behind the plate during their starts, which created some internal conflict within the Mets’ clubhouse.

Once Ramos’ hot streak began at the plate during the second half of the season, when he slashed a line of .305/.354/.426/.780, the Mets were forced to keep him in the lineup regularly. In doing so, deGrom and Syndergaard had to settle with Ramos catching them through the rest of the season.

Earlier this week, Mets’ general manager Brodie Van Wagenen reconfirmed to the media that Ramos will be the starting catcher heading into next season.

However, the Mets have also been reportedly searching through the free-agent catching market to potentially make an upgrade behind Ramos. Based on the results from backup catcher Nido from this past season, this type of move was expected to happen following his poor season.

During the 2019 season, Nido hit five doubles, four home runs, 14 RBI, 40 wRC+, -0.5 fWAR and a miserable hitting line of .191/.231/.316/.547 through 50 games played and 144 plate appearances. While Ramos performed extremely better than Nido at the plate during this past season, the 25-year-old catcher was the best defender between the two in 2019.

While Nido did commit a trio of errors, he also produced a +1 DRS and received a framing score of 2.4, which is significantly higher than the -7.6 grade that Ramos received. Despite Nido’s far greater defensive ability over Ramos, the Mets’ backup catcher was still a negative WAR player this past season because of his awful offensive capability at the plate.

If Van Wagenen and his staff are planning to move on from Nido this offseason, then they’ll need to find another quality defensive catcher who is also able to provide a little bit of offensive production as well. So far this offseason, the Mets have reportedly expressed their interest in free agent catchers Robinson Chirinos and Drew Butera.

While significantly older (35), Chirinos would serve as a significant offensive upgrade over Nido. This past season with the sign-stealing Astros, Chirinos recorded 17 home runs, 58 RBI, 113 wRC+, 2.3 fWAR and a slashing line of .238/.347/.443/.790 through 114 games and 437 plate appearances. Although, the Mets wouldn’t be upgrading defensively over Nido. During his 966 innings behind the plate, Chirinos generated six errors, +3 DRS and a -5.6 framing score.

Coming off arguably the best season of his career, Chirinos will also likely be seeking a multi-year contract worth much more than the $5.7 million he was paid in 2019. The Mets will likely be searching for a fairly inexpensive defense-first backup catcher to play behind Ramos next season. Since Chirinos doesn’t quite fit that mold, the Mets will likely look elsewhere to upgrade that position.

As for Butera, the 36-year-old spent the majority of the season in triple-A and recorded nine home runs, 40 RBI, .211 ISO, 117 wRC+ and an impressive slashing line of .300/.389/.511/.901 through 67 games and 262 plate appearances. During his brief time up with the Rockies this past season, Butera created just a trio of doubles and RBI, along with a poor hitting line of .163/.229/.233/.462 in 16 games and 49 plate appearances.

Despite his outstanding performance in triple-A this past season, Butera would likely struggle to transfer his success at the plate from the minors into the major leagues. Defensively, the veteran catcher committed a total of six errors through 569.2 innings behind the dish in Triple-A this past season. While Butera would likely serve as a cheaper and an offensive upgrade over Nido next season, given his age, the Mets would likely be better off passing on the veteran catcher.

If Van Wagenen and his staff are seeking a backup catcher for just next season, in order to allow both catching prospects Ali Sanchez and Patrick Mazeika to further develop in the minor leagues, then free-agent catcher Russell Martin would make a perfect addition to the Mets’ roster in 2020.

The soon-to-be 37-year-old played in 83 games with the Dodgers this past season and created six home runs, 20 RBI, 83 wRC+, 1.2 fWAR along with a hitting line of .220/.337/.330/.667 as well. The defense-first catcher started 52 games behind the plate for Los Angeles. Where Martin generated just a pair of errors along with recording a +2 DRS and a 5.6 framing score through 486 innings.

Despite his age, Martin would provide the Mets with a lot of upside over Nido. Along with his intriguing defensive numbers and respectable offensive results, Martin would also be reunited with pitcher Marcus Stroman, who he had a ton of success with during their time in Toronto.

With Martin behind the plate, Stroman recorded a 4.03 ERA, 26.2% strikeout rate, 6.7% walk rate and a .267 OPP AVG through 392.2 innings pitched. Ideally, Martin would also be able to form a great connection with both deGrom and Syndergaard next season, which should put them in a great position to further succeed in 2020.

Since Nido no longer owns any minor-league options, the Mets would have to place him through waivers before sending him down to triple-A. Even if Nido is claimed by an opposing team, the Mets would still have enough depth in the minors to fill in at the major league level if needed throughout the 2020 season.