J.T. Realmuto and other solutions at catcher for the Mets

There are multiple solutions to every problem in baseball. My belief is that the first problem that the Mets should look to solve is the bullpen. My solution is to sign Craig Kimbrel and whatever solid free agent reliever is left in late January. But you could sign Jeurys Familia and David Robertson and that could work nicely. Or you could sign Andrew Miller and two other solid guys and have that work out, as well.

Some think that the biggest problem on the Mets is catcher. You may or may not agree but the same principle applies there, too. J.T. Realmuto for 2019 and 2020 – and possibly a qualifying offer for 2021 – at a reasonable trade price would be the ideal solution. But if he repeats his 2018 season, the outcry from the fanbase – and no doubt some people internally – to sign him to a long-term deal would be overwhelming.

People will argue that since he’ll only be entering his age 30 season that he’ll be fine for a long-term deal. But catchers don’t age well and even the ones who continue to play at 33 and above will frequently require time at another position, like Joe Mauer or Brian McCann. Speaking of McCann, let’s look at his history.

A free agent following his age 29 season, the Yankees signed him to a five-year, $85 million deal plus an option year. According to the FanGraphs Dollar Values (which had Jacob deGrom worth over $70 million this year), McCann returned $69.1 million over his five years, which ended after 2018. And that was playing fewer than 100 games at catcher the final three seasons, including 62 games – 55 starts – in 2018.

There’s too big of a chance for a double whammy in signing a catcher in his 30s to a multi-year deal. The first is that he won’t be worth what you’re paying him and the second is that he won’t be able to play the position and you have to play him at a spot that overwhelms his bat and then put an even more inferior bat behind the plate.

And before you say, Yadier Molina, here’s how the Cardinals’ catcher has done, with the first number being his age and the second number being his fWAR total:

28 – 4.2
29 – 6.1
30 – 5.5
31 – 2.9
32 – 1.5
33 – 2.6
34 – 2.0
35 – 2.2

Molina exceeded his contract value because he gave the Cardinals a hometown discount. While McCann was getting $17 million per year and Mauer was pulling down $23 million per, Molina got three years at $14 million and two at $15 million. And his big contract covered his age 30 season, the last big year of his career. The big success story saw a significant dropoff from age 30 to 31 and then a smaller dropoff from 31 to the rest of his deal.

And what are the odds that Realmuto gives the Mets a hometown discount?

Plus, what do you pay to get him? MetsBlog speculates that their top three prospects wouldn’t be enough to get it done if other teams rumored to be interested get involved in the bidding. That seems like a pretty big overpay to me. My offer would be Justin Dunn, David Peterson (two first-round picks) and a lower-level infielder not named Ronny Mauricio. That’s two top 10 prospects and a lottery pick of sorts for two years of an impact catcher.

So, if not Realmuto, then who do they get? There are two interesting free agent options in Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos. Either of those guys are potential fits. But Grandal is coming off a poor postseason and turned down the qualifying offer extended him by the Dodgers, so he enters free agency with visions of a big payday. And Ramos has been hurt. FanGraphs’ Median Crowdsource, published November 5, has Grandal getting 3/$45 and Ramos at 3/$36. Both catchers are already in their 30s and if the Mets choose to go this route, my hope is they look for a two-year deal.

We’ve heard that new GM Brodie Van Wagenen is going to bring a new and different way of looking at things. And one thing that would certainly qualify as a different – not new – way would be to open 2019 the way they ended 2018, with three catchers. Down the stretch, the Mets gave starts to Devin Mesoraco, Tomas Nido and Kevin Plawecki. They could bring back Mesoraco at a much lower rate than what either Grandal or Ramos would get and have that trio again.

The Mets’ strength is their starting pitching and each of those three backstops did strong work with at least one of the club’s starters. Mesoraco caught the majority of deGrom’s starts and his ERA was 80 points better with Mesoraco than with Plawecki or essentially the difference between deGrom and Max Scherezer. But Plawecki got the best work out of Zack Wheeler, as in 11 starts with Plawecki behind the plate, Wheeler limited batters to a .515 OPS and a 1.88 ERA. And Nido, though he showed very little with the bat, got by far the best results from Noah Syndergaard. Nido (11 starts) got a 1.97 ERA with Syndergaard on the hill, compared to Plawecki (8), who got a 4.60 ERA and Mesoraco (5), who got a 3.21 mark.

Are any of these samples big enough? Perhaps not. But certainly Mickey Callaway thought there was something to it. At the absolute least, my hope is that Van Wagenen asks Callaway if he would be comfortable with this three-headed monster for an entire season. And if he was, that would open up more money for help in the bullpen or adding an impact bat elsewhere.

With seven and eight-man bullpens, a third catcher has gone the way of the dodo. But if the Mets get more innings from their top starters, they could go with a (gasp!) six-man pen. Or they could go with four outfielders, with the idea of carrying an infielder who could at least fake it in the outfield for a few innings at a time.

So, there are plenty of options for the Mets at catcher. And if none of the above are palatable for you, both Jonathan Lucroy and Matt Wieters are out there, too. Both of those guys had very vocal supporters who wanted the Mets to sign them to long-term, big buck deals in the very recent past. And both of those guys can be had now on a one-year deal, perhaps even an NRI.

20 comments for “J.T. Realmuto and other solutions at catcher for the Mets

  1. Hobie
    November 21, 2018 at 11:23 am

    Brian-

    What do you think it would take to get Sal Perez (who I like more than Realmuto)?

    • November 21, 2018 at 11:32 am

      Here’s how a Royals blog put it during last year when the Royals’ fire sale began:

      “He’s the guy who signed an extension with the Royals after his very first season with the club, and then signed another extension that keeps him a Royal until his age-32 season. He is the emotional core of the team, who loves everybody and whom is loved by everybody. Perez is the greatest catcher in the history of the Royals organization and an integral part of making Kansas City baseball exciting again.

      Where other teams see Perez, Kansas City sees Salvy. Oh, other teams will be interested in his intangibles, too. Those intangibles helped Eric Hosmer nab his giant free agent contract. But, ultimately, the Royals see Perez as a franchise cornerstone. Other teams do not see that.”

      https://www.royalsreview.com/2018/5/29/17396852/the-real-reason-why-salvador-perez-wont-be-traded

  2. John Fox
    November 21, 2018 at 11:47 am

    i think it could be a good move to sign Mesaraco to an affordable 2 year deal.

    • Pal88
      November 21, 2018 at 11:48 am

      I agree…he would be the perfect #2 (#1 for Jake) and Grandal or Ramos as primary…

  3. Name
    November 21, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    ” But if he repeats his 2018 season, the outcry from the fanbase – and no doubt some people internally – to sign him to a long-term deal would be overwhelming”

    Is this seriously something you are worried about right now? You’re worried that the GM might overpay for a player we don’t have in the future because of fan pressure? And that the solution is to not tempt him by not trading for him in the first place?

    • November 21, 2018 at 12:56 pm

      Regardless of where the pressure comes from – and I also mentioned internal pressure – yes, absolutely I worry about the pressure to overpay him in the future and 100 percent believe that should factor into the decision to get him now.

      And another source of pressure is what they surrendered to get him. I know you don’t believe the Marlins are interested in getting a 1B. But what if Alonso is part of the deal and he turns around and hits 40 HR in 2019? That creates pressure, too.

      While I think that contention in 2019 is on the table, I don’t believe this team should be going all-in on this year. They need to think about longer horizons, too.

      • Name
        November 22, 2018 at 2:49 pm

        “But what if Alonso is part of the deal and he turns around and hits 40 HR in 2019? That creates pressure, too.”

        This is a wildly outlandish claim to me. I don’t recall any GM irrational enough to overextend a traded player based on the performance of the player given away. And even if it were somehow true, i don’t know why you’d have any cause to believe it to be the case with our current GM, who has no history and we know nothing about.

        • November 23, 2018 at 8:33 am

          Fair enough that we don’t know our current GM. But we know our current owners and my belief is that they would act in this way.

          And we have the beginnings of a hint in this regard. The old GM had no interest in signing deGrom to an extension while he had multiple years of team control and now it seems more likely than not that it will happen.

          If memory serves, you were one of the first – if not the first – people on this blog who pointed out that there was no reason to do this given deGrom’s age. And while deGrom is a couple of years older, my opinion is that Realmuto’s position more than makes up for that discrepancy.

          • Name
            November 23, 2018 at 2:40 pm

            You seem to lumping a trade and extension together – but there isn’t any indications that this is a Santana situation where we’d only do a trade contingent on a long term deal.

            I have yet to opine on whether or not Realmuto should be extended, as he isn’t even yet a Met, but my belief is that you should evaluate the trade and whatever potential future contract as separate and independent.

            • November 23, 2018 at 2:49 pm

              I don’t have any problem approaching it the way that you suggest. But if we’re to do that, you need to factor that in to what you trade for him, which I feel I’ve been very consistent about saying.

              • Name
                November 23, 2018 at 2:56 pm

                Why? He’s under control for 2 years. Just value him like that. Once you trade for him, what you gave up for him is a sunk cost and is irrelevant for future contract negotiations.

                • November 23, 2018 at 4:26 pm

                  “He’s under control for 2 years. Just value him like that.”

                  That’s pretty much what I’ve been advocating. In ballpark estimates, Realmuto is going to give 8 fWAR for $18 million in his final two years of team control, for roughly $64 million of Dollar Value production. That’s great.

                  But what’s the expected WAR output and dollar outlay for the Cerrone-reported, not enough to get a deal done, trio of Alonso, Gimenez and Dunn? We know that’s a potential 18 years of team control but what do you put as their expected level of production? There’s no right answer to that but my opinion is that Gimenez by himself will give you more production.

                  Because I’d be viewing Realmuto as a two-year guy, I wouldn’t trade either Gimenez or Alonso to get him. And that means I wouldn’t get him. And I’m okay with that. But it’s likely that BVW and the Wilpons have different calculations and opinions.

  4. TJ
    November 21, 2018 at 7:42 pm

    Brian,
    Wonderful summary. I agree 100% that the bullpen is a higher priority than catcher. I also agree that 3 years is too much for Grandal or Ramos.

    The Mesoraco/DeGrom tandem is very intriguing, based on 2018 results. I would be happy with his return at a modest price, but he is clearly a #2 given his limitations and injury history.

    We tend to look at upgrades individually, but as pointed out st the top of the article, there are many ways to skin a cat. If they add bullpen pieces as suggested, along with some RH offense, the three-headed catching group could certainly suffice.

    • Mike Walczak
      November 21, 2018 at 8:47 pm

      I’ll take the bullpen before a catcher spend. Who knows, the way the rumors are going, maybe we get a catcher in a Syndergaard deal. Francisco Mejia ?

      If Brodie trades Syndergaard, I just pray that some team seriously overpays for him.

  5. November 22, 2018 at 1:13 am

    That means you non-tender TDA yes? Thus saving nearly 4 million or so. I could see the 3 tier plan for catching but you need a Marwin Gonzalez type who can play infield and outfield saving you a roster spot. Then you can non-tender Flores as well and apply that money to the pen.

    • Mike Walczak
      November 22, 2018 at 12:14 pm

      Pete, I would love to see the Mets sign Marwin Gonzalez. His versatility is fantastic.

      Happy Thanksgiving guys. I am truly grateful for the Mets and this blog. It is something that I look forward to reading every day.

    • November 23, 2018 at 9:06 am

      My understanding is that TDA won’t be ready for Opening Day. Even (or especially) if they don’t go the three-catcher option, I consider him a long shot to be tendered a contract. Now, I could see them letting him go and then bringing him back at last year’s salary, or for fewer dollars.

      I know they activated him from the 60-day and kept him around when if the plan was to let him go they could have done that already. It could mean that they are really planning on tendering him. Or it could mean that they didn’t want to tip their hand too soon. We shall see.

  6. November 22, 2018 at 1:15 am

    Alonso should not be included in any deal. I’d rather give up on Smith

  7. November 22, 2018 at 11:20 am

    Good thoughts here. . I wondered if I would see anything in print this year about a potential Mesoraco signing. I like the idea of having a 1A, 1B, and 1C troika there to mix and match, and keep them healthier with less work. Mesoraco has a little bit of pop and for the money, I think he may actually be the best option out there. I do like Realmuto, but I don’t want to see them way overpay for him.

  8. Eraff
    November 23, 2018 at 10:08 am

    I always assume that other people will not continue to do something that is convenient and beneficial to Me when it becomes contrary to to their own interests

    Both Jake and Noah need to consider guaranteed money now… and I believe that has already been strongly explored and identified with dg. Neither of them should be greatly bent over a barrel…. they do hold leverage. I believe both would be mistaken to throw a pitch without getting guaranteed money.

    I also don’t believe in trading one for not ready for prime time players….. most especially, if you’re signing Jake and Trading Noah, you need a Now Piece/Pieces…..A big, big Bat. Otherwise, trade both for a mountain of players

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