While the 2020 campaign hasn’t even begun, there could be an opportunity for the New York Mets to upgrade behind the plate this winter.
Yes, it may be a little early to start thinking about next offseason, but the New York Mets will have a huge decision to make at the catcher spot after this campaign.
Heading into the 2020 season, Wilson Ramos is slated to be the starting catcher for New York and he’ll also be entering the final season of the two-year, $19 million contract he signed in 2018.
For the Mets, they could decide to keep Ramos around for another season by exercising his $10 million club option for the 2021 campaign. Nonetheless, there could be an opportunity for the team to make a significant upgrade behind the plate next offseason.
If the Mets buy Ramos out for $1.5 million after this season, it would provide them with an opportunity to pursue J.T. Realmuto this coming winter, one of the best catchers in the major leagues. Currently, the 29-year-old is set to become a free agent next offseason and could command a mega-deal north of $100 million.
While the Phillies could re-sign Realmuto before he reaches the open market, it’d be more beneficial to expose himself to the other 29 teams in the league. As of right now, the 6-foot-1 player will undoubtedly be the best catcher available in free agency.
Considering Yasmani Grandal, 31, earned a four-year, $73 million deal from the White Sox this past offseason, it seems very likely that Realmuto will be able to command a five-year, $100 million contract through free agency this winter. Even at that price, the Mets would be foolish not to at least consider making a run at the veteran.
Beyond the 2020 campaign, New York has just over $76 million committed to its payroll for 2021, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. While that number will likely increase closer to $100 million after contract renewals and arbitration hearings, the Mets should still have a ton of space for a potential Realmuto contract.
Despite his expensive price tag, the two-time All-Star profiles to be a perfect fit in Queens and he’d be a much better pairing with the Mets pitching staff than Ramos.
During the 2019 campaign, Realmuto received 593 plate appearances and hit 25 home runs (fourth-most among all catchers with at least 300 plate appearances), 83 RBI’s (first), a .217 ISO, .309 BABIP, .340 wOBA, 108 wRC+, 5.7 fWAR rating (first) along with a slashing line of .275/.328/.493/.820.
Along with these impressive numbers, the two-time Silver Slugger Award winner additionally created a 23.4% line drive rate, 39% ground ball rate, 37.6% fly ball rate, and 45.6% hard-hit rate (third-best) as well.
In comparison, Ramos produced 14 home runs, 73 RBI’s, a .129 ISO, .310 BABIP, .327 wOBA, 18.4% line drive rate, 62.4% ground ball rate, 19.2% fly ball rate, 32.2% hard-hit rate, 105 wRC+, 1.4 fWAR rating, and a slashing line of .288/.351/.416/.768 over his 524 plate appearances last season.
Based on these results, it’s clear Realmuto has the edge over Ramos at the plate. If he was positioned within the middle of the Mets batting order, it’s likely that he wouldn’t become a liability during the 2021 campaign.
Along with his skills as a hitter, the Phillies signal-caller has also proven to be one of the best defensive catchers in the majors, something the Mets seriously lacked with Ramos in 2019.
Among all catchers who played at least 700 innings last year, Realmuto tied for the fourth-most defensive runs saved (12) and earned the seventh-best framing score (8.0). In addition, the right-hander also produced the fourth-most blocking runs (4.8), tied for the eighth-most runs saved from extra strikes (eight), and the 21st-highest strike rate (50.2%).
As for Ramos, the 32-year-old catcher struggled with his defense, generating -11 defensive runs saved (fifth-worst), a -7.6 framing score (seventh-worst), -0.5 blocking runs, -4 runs saved from extra strikes, along with a 46.8% strike rate in 2019.
For every catcher, being able to throw out runners effectively is a crucial part of the job. Unfortunately for the Mets, their team allowed the most stolen bases in 2019 (139) while only catching 22 runners stealing, seventh-fewest throughout the majors last season.
If New York was to add Realmuto this winter, it would definitely see that total decrease during the 2021 campaign. In 2019, the impending free agent caught 43 runners stealing (first), produced the most throwing runs (4.7), and averaged the best pop times to second base (1.88 seconds) and third base (1.42 seconds).
In comparison, Ramos threw out just 17 runners, recorded a league-worst -3.3 throwing runs, and averaged pop times of 2.0 seconds to second base and 1.57 seconds to third base last season.
Since New York relies heavily on its pitching staff, it would make a lot of sense to acquire one of the best catchers in the majors, especially since both Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard aren’t happy when Ramos is behind the plate. Furthermore, signing Realmuto would also make the Mets offense even more dangerous in 2021.
While the Phillies won’t let Realmuto walk without a fight, the Mets are poised to take the superstar catcher off their hands after this season. If successful, the Mets could become one step closer to surging back into the Fall Classic for the first time since 2015.