The beginning of the 2017 season brought a familiar narrative for Travis d’Arnaud. This would be the season that he would break his pattern of being injury prone. His new swing would finally help him to fulfill the potential that he was originally thought to possess when the Mets first traded for him. So far this season, it seems that nothing has changed for d’Arnaud. His average currently sits at .204, and he has four home runs to go with 16 RBIs. Just as it seemed he was starting to pick up the pace though, d’Arnaud sustained a bone bruise. This forced the starting job to be placed upon well-traveled backup catcher Rene Rivera.
When Rivera signed to the Mets on a minor-league contract on April 5th, 2016, it was simply a matter of deepening the roster. After being recalled to the majors when Travis d’Arnaud succumbed to injury, it soon became known that Rivera not only had the best arm of all the Mets catchers, he was a better defensive catcher than the other two the Mets possessed. Rivera lead the Mets catchers with a +4 defensive runs saved, and also threw out 18 potential base stealers in 61 attempts. He soon became the catcher of choice for Noah Syndergaard. Catching for the ace of the staff was nothing new to Rivera, as he was the catcher of choice for Andrew Cashner in San Diego and Chris Archer in Tampa Bay. Rivera signed a one-year, $1.75 million contract on December 3, 2016 to stay with the Mets.
Coming into the 2017, Rivera was slated to be d’Arnaud’s backup at catcher. For the most part, in the beginning of the season Rivera only started when Syndergaard did, including Opening Day. A new opportunity opened up when d’Arnaud injured himself though. Although at first it seemed that Rivera would only be required to hold down the fort, he has taken the opportunity by the horns and rode it to success. Through 63 at-bats Rivera has produced a solid .328 batting average, along with driving in eight runs. While at first it may not jump out at you based on the small sample size, but it is an improvement over last season. Last season, Rivera hit a lowly .222 and drove in only 26 runs. So why start Rivera over d’Arnaud when he returns?
The Mets are already at a desperate point in the season. At the time of this being written, they currently sit two games under .500. The Mets absolutely need to win games anyway they can, no matter who is behind the plate. The way that Rivera is playing behind and at the plate, it would be incredulous to start d’Arnaud over him. In one more game at catcher than d’Arnaud, Rivera has thrown out more runners and allowed one less steal. While Rivera may not possess the pop that d’Arnaud does, he has been more consistent at the plate thus far. Of course, many people will side with starting d’Arnaud due to the fact that he is much younger than Rivera and has more potential. Would you risk winning games winning games with a veteran player just for the sake of trying to stretch out the potential of player who’s injury list is longer than the line at Shake Shack? It is a decision that Terry Collins will be forced to make sooner rather than later.