The Mets’ catching situation is untenable

Y’know, twenty years ago, the Mets had a problem. They were a team with a lot of potential and some outstanding players: John Olerud, Edgardo Alfonzoand Al Leiter come to mind. They had staunch defense, anchored by young Rey Ordonez, spectacular at shortstop. They had the vaunted “veteran presence” in the lineup with Carlos Baerga and Bernard Gilkey. New manager Bobby Valentine had brought the Mets home with a surprising 88-win 1997 season. Hopes were high at the start of ’98. Oh, and they had an All-Star catcher behind the plate, Todd Hundley. Herein lay the problem. Hundley ended the 1997 season needing reconstructive surgery on his elbow. He would miss half the season. That would leave the Mets’ catching in shambles to start the year. They started the year by rotating Tim Spehr (career OPS .657), Alberto Castillo (.590) and career backup Todd Pratt (.741). With the other assets on the roster, the team was able to bump along to May 22, posting a record of 24-20. Why did I pick that date? That’s the date they fixed the catching for good, making the famous trade for Mike Piazza. From that date forward, with a Hall-of-Famer behind the dish, the Mets went 64-54, just missing out on a Wild Card spot due to a late-season slump. The catching situation had been resolved.

Fast-forward to 2018. The Mets’ projected catching platoon of Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki started out semi-decently, if unspectacularly. The hitting was subject to the usual April vicissitudes, but generally OK. The defense wasn’t good. That lasted eleven games. On April 11, it was announced that d’Arnaud had a torn ACL in his throwing elbow and may need Tommy John surgery. That night, Plawecki was cracked in the hand by a Tayron Guerrero fastball. Initially, x-rays came back negative, but two days later, an MRI revealed that a bone had been broken and Plawecki would be on the self for at least three weeks. Their replacements – veteran Jose Lobaton and young Tomas Nido – have made us pine for the days of Tim Spehr, Alberto Castillo and Todd Pratt. Nido and Lobaton are billed as what’s called “defense-first” catchers. Defense-first – an appellation that fits for any position, a kinder way of saying “The guy can’t hit.” All recent evidence indicates Nido and Lobaton can’t play defense, either. The Mets now sit at 15-7 and feeling like a strong contender for a post-season slot. They cannot continue with this catching situation if they expect to get there.

As has been noted elsewhere, there are some good alternatives out there. It is now up to GM Sandy Alderson and the rest of the front office to come up with a solution that enhances the Mets’ chances at this year’s post-season without crippling their prospects of same in the near future. Of course, now isn’t the time to panic about it and make a rash overpayment for a backstop; there’s not a Piazza out there, but something clearly has to give. You simply cannot run a lineup with two guaranteed outs in it and expect to compete with the Washington Nationals or hold off the Philadelphia Phillies or Atlanta Braves.

May 22 isn’t that far away.

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley.

19 comments for “The Mets’ catching situation is untenable

  1. royhobbs7
    April 26, 2018 at 8:25 am

    Sandy and the Coupons are going to drag their respective gluteus maximi on this one!
    There will be no catcher coming to the Mets until July. And by then, who knows, the Nats might be in first be 10 games!?

  2. Mike Walczak
    April 26, 2018 at 9:08 am

    How about Wilson Ramos. Tampa may be happy to shed his salary.

  3. Chris F
    April 26, 2018 at 10:46 am

    And so is the pitching situation. I cant see sustained success this year with only deGrom (our best pitcher) and Syndergaard throwing to…?….maybe give the ump a catchers mitt?

    Everything else is minor. Starting pitching and catching is a real growing concern.

  4. Anthony Marrazzo
    April 26, 2018 at 10:59 am

    Every day lost with these minor leaguers is a missed opportunity to build this team

    Mets history shows that when a professional catcher (Piazza; Carter) is placed in the Mets lineup they contribute to wins

    Get this done sooner than later and more wins will be posted in lieu of losses

    Get it done sooner than later

    Alderson will never regret getting it done sooner but will regret not getting it done!

  5. TJ
    April 26, 2018 at 11:12 am

    Charlie,
    So, agreed that the Met catching situation is in bad shape right now. Actually, Met pitchers are hitting around the Mendoza line, but I get your point. Two weaks spots in the lineup are hard to overcome, but perhaps not insurmountable.

    Plawecki most certainly is better than Nido and Lobaton, and he will be back soon enough, but they can use another MLB vet. I would love to have Realmuto but I would not deplete the system for him. The reason is, that for all the talk of this “window” for winning, along with the good start, all is not well. The run differential is now at +9, indicative of a lower win percentage. Yes, last night’s blow out altered it greatly, but it also displayed the biggest concern – the Mets have poor starting pitching in the 3-4-5 spot until proven otherwise. If this doesn’t improve, Johnny Bench in his prime won’t overcome 60% of the staff that gives up a lot of runs, can’t pitch out of jams, and taxes the bullpen tremendously.

    Hopefully Vargas will add some stability and dependable innings, we shall see. Perhaps some of the Matz-Wheeler-Harvey will step up and improve, or perhaps Gsellman and/or Lugo will step in and perform. If that happens, and Plawecki doesn’t show himself as an everyday catcher, I’d be much more inclined to pay a steeper price for Realmuto.

  6. OldBackstop
    April 26, 2018 at 9:16 pm

    This is a great article, well done, Charlie. The parallels are startling.

    A few ADHD thoughts.

    — I would not trade for talent equivalent of Manuel Barrios, Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich, Charles Johnson and Gary Sheffield, which the Dodgers did for Piazza eight days before they traded Piazza to us for Geoff Goetz (minors), Preston Wilson and Ed Yarnall. Yes, the Ed Yarnall.

    — with a pitching team, a lot of them young, I think it is really important to have some stability behind, even though catchers don’t get in 150 games anymore.

    — are we sure Nido has no jets on him? I think he won a batting title at A+, and he is 24. Plawecki and him might be good enough is Cespedes, Conforto, Gonzales quit hitting .200.

    — I see stupid trades out there, like Jon Heymann saying Conforto straight up . Realmuto is a 27 year old catcher coming off an injury. Stats say he will decline.

    — Bottom line, I would send a bunch of prospects there and be thrilled, but why weaken the major league team…we’d be treading water. The trades out there being talked about….Nimmo, Gsellman, Conforto…..noooo. We aren’t too bad there at catcher….or at least we could wait to see until July what we have before giving up pieces of a 15-8 team.

    Great article, Charlie.

    Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

  7. MattyMets
    April 26, 2018 at 10:48 pm

    The bottom of the lineup is like a little league team with automatic outs. Rosario needs to be better. That would help.

    Waiting for Plawecki to come back is not a strategy. He’s, at best, a solid backup. Realmuto would be ideal and hats off to Alderson if he can swing that without gutting the farm or parting with a key piece. More realistically we should be able to get Ramos or , Lucroy for not much. If trades aren’t happening yet, we could at least sign Carlos Ruiz and give him two weeks in Vegas.

  8. TexasGusCC
    April 27, 2018 at 9:51 am

    Surely, teams are trying to screw the Mets and even Ramos and Lucroy are now probably expensive in terms of prospects. The Rays want to sell tickets and Oakland isn’t doing too badly.

    However, I’m not looking there. The Giants are going nowhere; the division is already lost, and when Bumgarner comes back, they are going to consider moving him. What about Posey? They have a young catcher that can be ready by late this year. Posey is making $20MM per year, so we need to be careful how we approach Fred Coupon, but the Giants have a pretty weak system and not much pitching. What can we offer the Giants?

    After carefully looking at our options and contracts, I’m offering the Giants, Conforto, Gsellman, and another young arm (Bautista/Bashlor) for Posey. Is it enough, would they do it? The Mets have too many outfielders under contract and their prospects look more like suspects, so the options are few.

    Trading Conforto would let Nimmo/Lagares share CF, and Gsellman can go into their starting rotation. They probably would want another young starter, and the Mets should comply out of their minors. This is the Piazza trade all over. It would solve a logjam, fix a problem, and avoid using any of the “blue chippers” they have in a crappy minor league system that the Maverick has “built”, while they actually try to win.

    • April 27, 2018 at 10:12 am

      Never gonna happen. Posey is the face of that franchise. That’d be like somebody proposing a trade for David Wight in 2011.

      • TexasGusCC
        April 27, 2018 at 12:19 pm

        Charilie,

        Remember that we said that if you want to do a rebuild correctly, you should tear it down completely? Conforto is a young MLB all-star with many years control, there’s your new face. He’s from the Pacific Coast: perfect! Plus, you have very little pitching in your system. I’m not say that this is enough – but I don’t know how many young controllable all-stars would be traded anyway – but Posey will be moved for a King’s Ransom to someone, and he isn’t cheap anyway.

        • Name
          April 27, 2018 at 12:26 pm

          The Giants don’t do fire sales, and they certainly aren’t going to do one right now. They just traded for 2 aging veterans and tried to get Stanton this offseason. Money aint a problem and they’re not gonna give up after an 11-13 start.

          • TexasGusCC
            April 27, 2018 at 12:34 pm

            But then Bumgarner got hurt and their pitching is a joke. I know they don’t do fire sales, but everything is for sale if the package is heavy enough.

            • Name
              April 27, 2018 at 1:46 pm

              I don’t think the Giants think their pitching is a joke.

              No, nothing is for sale, you can’t even look at the merchandise. The current Giants regime doesn’t sell. Period. When was the last time they traded away a decent productive player for prospects, let alone their franchise player?

    • Chris F
      April 27, 2018 at 12:55 pm

      you wanna be on the hook for 80M$ for Posey to watch him turn into Agon playing 1B for most of that time since his catching days are diminishing?

      No thanks.

      I give Jeter a call, and say the door is open to anyone that is not playing for the big club (except Flores and Lagares). The Marlins dont really need legit MLB players now. The need A – AAA players mostly. No nimmo, no rosario etc.

      Get Realmuto now.

      • TexasGusCC
        April 27, 2018 at 4:13 pm

        No thanks to Posey, you want Realmuto???? Chris, are you ok? Are you turning into a Coupon?

        The guy is awesome throwing, awesome framing, and carried his team to three World Series titles. Name disagrees that they’d even do it, and I can understand why, but if the Giants say “we’ll listen”, you have to try.

        • Chris F
          April 27, 2018 at 5:14 pm

          Couldnt give Posey and 80M$ anchor contract to me. Total waste of money for an aging, declining years used to be.

          On the other hand, Id take Sal Perez if KC felt so inclined.

  9. May 1, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    MetsBlog headline today (5/1) – The Mets’ situation at catcher is untenable

    Demand justice!

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