Devin Mesoraco – short-term fix or long-term answer?

Like Matt Harvey, Devin Mesoraco needed a change of scenery. Both players were first round picks and All Star selections who’d endured a rough couple of seasons due to injuries. The in-season trade made sense for both teams, perhaps even more so in hindsight.

Mesoraco was the Cincinnati Reds’ 15th pick of the first round in 2007 and the second catcher drafted after the super-hyped Matt Wieters (the next Johnny Bench?). Mesoraco was drafted straight out of high school in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (yes, home of the groundhog). The Mets did not have a true first round pick that year, having traded their 29th pick to the Giants, but we did have two supplemental first rounders that we used on the forgettable Eddie Kunz and Nathan Vineyard – both selected before Josh Donaldson (oopsie).

Mesoraco progressed through the Reds’ minor league system and, following a cup of coffee at the end of 2011, was a top ranked prospect – #16 by Baseball America, #14 by Jonathan Mayo. The catcher showed promise in a limited role in 2012 before taking over starting duties in 2013. In 2014, Mesoraco erupted for a huge breakout year and earned an All Star game nod with a .273/.359/.534 slash line, including 50 extra base hits and 80 RBI. Just 26 at the time, Mesoraco seemed poised to join the discussion among best catchers in the league. However, injuries robbed him of most of the next two seasons and then he struggled to bounced back in 2017, slashing just .213/.321/.390. In 2018, the Reds took the opportunity to give Mesoraco a change of scenery and, so far, it seems to have helped.

While he’s shown some pop in the batter’s box for the Mets with eight home runs, Mesoraco’s real value to the team has been behind the plate. Prior to his arrival, the Mets, with Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki both on the disabled list, were deploying a dreadful catching combination of journeyman Jose Lobaton and minor leaguer Tomas Nido. Not only could neither hit a lick, but our starting pitchers didn’t seem to have any comfort level throwing to them. Pitch calls were constantly shaken off, base runners stole at will, and bad pitch calls were resulting in home runs. Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz were struggling and Noah Syndergaard was less than Thor-like. From the moment the Mets brought in Mesoraco, that all changed. The starters found their groove and we got some production out of the catcher’s spot in the batting order too.

So, is Mesoraco more than just a short-term fix? Is the pending free agent summer trade bait or should we consider resigning the barely 30-year-old backstop for 2019 and beyond? Well, let’s look at our options. In house, we have the perpetually injured d’Arnaud who could return next season in his final year of arbitration (or be DFA’d) and the AAAA quality Plawecki who continues to be serviceable behind the plate but has a backup quality bat.  Our minor leagues offer two journeyman in AAA – Lobaton and Johnny Monell (famous for having a big spring training a few years ago) and Nido (career minor league BA of .260) and Patrick Mazeika (batting .212 for the Rumble Ponies) up in AA. Surely there must be a catching prospect at high single A St. Lucie, right? Not so much. The three main backstops are all hitting below .250 with three home runs…combined.

At this time, Mesoraco is our best organizational catcher.  Now, to be fair, the League isn’t exactly teeming with star catchers these days. In fact, as of this writing, there are 27 catchers with at least 150 at bats, and, offensively, Mesoraco is right in the middle of the pack with a .736 OPS. Plus, several of the guys ahead of him are part-time catchers who get half their at bats as a DH (Evan Gattis, Gary Sanchez) or are defensive liabilities (Gattis, Sanchez, Wilson Ramos).

So, we could do worse than Mesoraco, but what are the upcoming free agent options? Here’s the list from MLB Trade Rumors with ages in parenthesis.

Drew Butera (35)
A.J. Ellis (38)
Tyler Flowers (33)
Yasmani Grandal (30)
Nick Hundley (35)
Jonathan Lucroy (33)
Martin Maldonado (32)
Jeff Mathis (36)
Brian McCann (35)* [$15MM club/player option]
Devin Mesoraco (31)
Miguel Montero (35)
Wilson Ramos (31)
Rene Rivera (35)
Kurt Suzuki (35)
Matt Wieters (33)

Most of these catchers are long in the tooth or not that good. Grandal stands out, but are the Dodgers really going to let him walk? J.T. Realmuto continues to maybe be available in trade, but the Marlins have reportedly been asking for a king’s ransom. Rightfully so, as the 27-year-old is a terrific backstop, leads all with a .904 OPS and still has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining. The latest rumors have the Marlins discussing an extension with Realmuto.

Given the dearth of alternatives and the Mets pitchers’ comfort level with him, perhaps that’s what we should be doing with Mesoraco.

28 comments for “Devin Mesoraco – short-term fix or long-term answer?

  1. July 6, 2018 at 9:18 am

    I’d sign him to a one or two year deal to continue the very productive time share with Plawecki.

  2. Chris F
    July 6, 2018 at 9:34 am

    Mesoraco, like with TdA and KP are waving the white flag of surrender. If the plan is to capitalize on the pitching by (mistakenly) not trading it, then you have to go with Grandal or Wilson Ramos, or trade for Realmuto…or Sal Perez –> Royals no longer need him.

    This is exactly the situation this Mets fan doesnt understand. If you have elite pitching, how can you expect to compete with below grade position players and offense. Mesoraco is an inch away from another season ender. Hes played more than 60 games 2 seasons in his career, 2013 and 2014. And thats your answer to “competitive” along with KP? Honestly, I dont get it.

  3. Michael
    July 6, 2018 at 9:35 am

    Sign him at what price? The last 3 years he has made 5, 7 and 13 million per. Obviously he will command nothing close to 13. TDA this year is making 3.5 and there is no way he’ll see that again when he signs a new contract.
    Interestingly, Baseball-reference has a list of batters similar to Devin and TDA is ranked #2.

  4. Mike Walczak
    July 6, 2018 at 9:57 am

    I like Mesoraco, with the caveat “so far”.

    If he could stay healthy, he could be a serviceable option. As you see from the list, the catchers are over 30 and there are no real standouts.

    Realmuto is the only real star, but is not worth the asking price.

    The problem though with TDA and Mesoraco is the DL.

    Let’s see How it plays out.

  5. TexasGusCC
    July 6, 2018 at 10:04 am

    Also, a few days after getting Mesoraco, the Mets brought up Nido to be coached by Mesoraco on how to prepare for a game. This is a compliment to Mesoraco, but a slap at their own system which the whole world now knows just stinks.

    I agree with the short term resigning, especially in light of the weakness of the position overall. We have seen Mesoraco to be a smart player, and brains (a) don’t decrease at the same rate as speed does at other positions (b) are quite the rarity on the Mets, who have had some of the dumbest plays on the field in recent history.

    • Chris F
      July 6, 2018 at 10:20 am

      Would you pay 2/30 for his FA? Hes making 13M$ this year. Hes played more than 60 games twice…5+ years ago.

      Just curious.

      • Pete In Iowa
        July 6, 2018 at 1:25 pm

        No way he will command that type of money in free agency.

      • Mike Walczak
        July 6, 2018 at 2:38 pm

        He is not worth 13 mil. His worth will depend a lot on what he does for the rest of the year.

        I’d like to see him on a prove it contract.

        The problem is thst there is a dearth of good catchers, so a team who really needs a catcher will probably overpay for him.

        That being said, would you rather have Mesoraco or TDA? Id go with Mesoraco. He seems like a good team guy who plays decent defense and can handle the pitching staff.

        Since there aren’t really any better options out there, it’s probably good to keep him.

  6. July 6, 2018 at 10:29 am

    Both Plawecki and Mesoraco have a wRC+ over 110 no need to give up a ton for another catcher, need to get better at other positions.

  7. July 6, 2018 at 11:28 am

    My preference would be to re-sign Mesoraco but it all depends on how much he’s looking for. I would be interested in a contract like what they gave Swarzak or possibly Frazier. But I’d let him walk before giving him more than that.

    • Chris F
      July 6, 2018 at 12:07 pm

      even with the fact he has only played more than 60 games 2 times…5 years ago?

      • TJ
        July 6, 2018 at 12:40 pm

        Chris,
        I agree that any decision on retaining Mes should be consistent with the decision on the top 4 starters. That said, a team can compete with average positional players if the pitching is above average. Mes to me looks to be at least average. Yes, the injuries concern me, but he also has less mileage than a 30 year old catcher. If they like him and his handling of the pitchers, and they can get him on a Frazier deal, I’d do it, then look to add an all- star on the infield and most importantly two high quality back end bullpen arms. That is doable.

      • July 6, 2018 at 12:52 pm

        His injury history is the only reason you could get him on that type of deal. Look at the contract Wilson Ramos got — when he had a torn ACL.

        The assumption is that he goes through the remainder of 2018 without another injury that requires much more than a minimum DL stay. The fact that he’s missed so much time at an early age is actually sort of a blessing in disguise for him – in that he didn’t develop all the wear and tear on him that other catchers did.

        • Chris F
          July 6, 2018 at 1:47 pm

          ok, Im the odd man out…again!

          I like Mesoraco, but the injuries and TdA injuries tell me one thing: who scribbled down Jose Lobaton’s phone number? Anthony Recker…where are you??????

          • July 6, 2018 at 5:53 pm

            FWIW – I never, ever want to see Jose Lobaton in a Mets uniform again.

            • Chris F
              July 6, 2018 at 6:36 pm

              you may have to with DM, TdA, and KP as the receivers!

  8. John Fox
    July 6, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Interesting point about how he has positively affected the pitching staff. If he can be signed for a reasonable 2 or 3 year deal I’d be all for it

  9. July 6, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    Chris, I do believe you need to look at the reality of Catchers c 2018. While my preference would be to have a lefty bat and a righty bat, the reality is that the combination of Plawecki and Mesoroco has given the Mets a good presence for the past month or so… you can win with the level of catching play they provide, and it’s actually tough to get what they are giving you.

    • Chris F
      July 6, 2018 at 4:40 pm

      Its abundantly clear I dont see things like everyone else seems to!

      1969 WS Champs: Grote. He ran that staff like a demon.
      1986 WS Champs: Piazza. Nuff said.

      I see C as a position *almost* requiring an all star to have success.

      Posey, Molina, Perez, etc..

      I like Mesoraco, and loved the trade, just not sure I see forward moving answers there with the extended injury history labrum tears in both hips shoulder surgery.

      • Mike Walczak
        July 6, 2018 at 4:46 pm

        Piazza was not the catcher in 86, it was Carter.

        The Mets brass just found their dollar fifty reliever for next year! Jenrry Mejia just got reinstated.

        • Chris F
          July 6, 2018 at 6:16 pm

          I meant carter…sorry for the error and thanks for the catch Mike. In either case….

  10. July 6, 2018 at 5:31 pm

    Gerry Grote was a very highly rated defender… he gave you an effort with the bat, but not much talent or production.

    https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/g/groteje01.shtml

    • Chris F
      July 6, 2018 at 6:42 pm

      for sure, Grote was a defensive minded, hard as nails, run the pitching staff catcher. Johnny Bench famously said: “If Jerry Grote were a Cincinnati Red, I would have been a third baseman”.

      So, this idea the sole value come from offensive numbers, as folks around here well now, drives me nuts. Look it seems like Mesaraco is helpng the pitching, but his injury time is so big I cant not see it. Scares me. The *most* games hes ever played is 114. His baseball card just makes me cringe.

      • TJ
        July 6, 2018 at 7:31 pm

        Chris,
        I do agree with you in principle that optimally the catcher on a legit contender would be an all-star-ish type. Realmuto may be the only one semi-available, but he would cost more than the Mets could afford in prospects. I would certainly consider Perez on KC, but he would cost players and $40 million over the next 3 years. If they get him for a non-prospect to take on the money, I’d go there. But, if Mesaraco can prove his health for the balance of 2018, and they continue to like what they see, and no one overpays in a deadline deal, he would be a better bet than TDA for 2019. This would allow the Mets more trade and signing flexibility to fill the other big holes.

  11. Madman
    July 6, 2018 at 9:13 pm

    Trade DeGrom! YAnks should be willing to empty the farm to win a couple of WS! How about Sheffield,Abreu, Frazier and Florial?

    • TexasGusCC
      July 7, 2018 at 12:13 am

      Mets don’t need the arms, they need bats. Switch Andujar for Sheffield, and add a catcher; they have plenty of them.

  12. AJV
    July 7, 2018 at 12:35 am

    If Mesoraco can finish the year healthy a 2 or 3 year deal at a decent AAV is fair. Maybe 6-7 mil per year. It settles catcher with KP and Mes and we know they have been handling the starting staff well. Lets the FO concentrate on other problem areas, like BP, CF, and possibly another IF guy at 2B or 3B.

  13. July 7, 2018 at 5:28 am

    If possible, resign DM to a team-friendly deal and keep TD around too since neither can stay healthy enough to be a starter. Can we find a better backup than KP? Man’s star burned out mighty quick.

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