Here is the first paragraph in an article written here back in 2014, entitled, Mets change slot philosophy with 2014 Draft:

Prior to the 2012 Draft, MLB instituted a new policy in how it handled the signing of amateur players selected in the June affair. With these new rules in place, it was hard to determine what the best strategy to employ was going to be. My preference would be to go above the slot recommendation with your top two picks and look to make up the difference later. In his first two drafts, Sandy Alderson went in the exact opposite direction.

The article went on to discuss the players the team gave both fewer and more dollars than slot recommendations. Even in 2014, it looked like the Mets whiffed on these overslot guys. Not much has changed eight-plus years later. One of the “success” stories of that early draft philosophy of going cheap early to give above-slot bonuses later was Tomas Nido.

Drafted in the eighth round in 2012, Nido was given a bonus $113,100 dollars in excess of the slot recommendation. The Mets drafted Gavin Cecchini in the first round of that year’s draft, partly because he agreed to an underslot deal. The Mets bypassed Lucas Giolito, Corey Seager and Marcus Stroman, among others, to pick Cecchini. It was maddening at the time and it doesn’t look any better with hindsight.

Meanwhile, Nido didn’t exactly rake his first few years in the organization. And with Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki and others in the minors ahead of him, it didn’t look like a very bright future. But then 2016 happened. Playing in Hi-A St. Lucie, Nido hit .320 and won the FSL batting title. Overnight he became everyone’s favorite prospect.

Well, almost everyone.

He placed 34th on my top 50 list for 2017, behind Patrick Mazeika so you know my opinion of him wasn’t very high. Here was the blurb that was attached to his name: “Breakout year in 2016 fueled by a .935 home OPS. Road numbers look suspiciously like his pre-2016 numbers.”

Sure enough, he failed to duplicate 2016’s offensive numbers going forward. But he kept climbing the ladder and eventually ended up on the shuttle between the majors and minors before establishing himself as a defense-first backup catcher.

Maybe backup catcher isn’t the most-glamorous position in baseball but Nido has parlayed it into a two-year deal, giving him job security that most eighth-round picks would kill for if given a chance. Bully for him, even if the contract makes it harder for the Mets to carry a top prospect right away in 2023.

It’s difficult to describe my feelings for Nido now. Don’t like him, don’t hate him – just ask that he help in the development of Francisco Alvarez and if he does that, anything else he gives will be a bonus. But as a proponent of seeing Alvarez in the majors sooner rather than later, re-upping with Nido is at least a tiny roadblock in Alvarez’ path to the Opening Day roster.

Now, for Alvarez to do that, the Mets would need to carry three catchers, something that almost no team does these days on anything more than a temporary basis. It wasn’t always that way. Back in 1973-74, the Mets had Duffy Dyer, Jerry Grote and Ron Hodges. It occurred to me that might be the last time the Mets opened the season with three catchers on the roster.

Turns out we don’t have to look that far back to see the Mets with three backstops. In the Covid year of 2020, the Mets went north with Wilson Ramos, Nido and Rene Rivera. Of course, rosters were set at 30 players at the start of the season, so it needs to come with an asterisk. Now the question is: At what numerical roster size do the Mets prioritize three catchers?

The proliferation of middle relievers made the third catcher virtually extinct. The 30-man roster brought him back. Is there room for a third catcher with a 26-man roster? Us Alvarez backers certainly hope for that to be the case.

It’s almost impossible to carry three catchers without at least one of them being an offensive plus. And having ones bat from both sides of the plate is a help, too. The Mets will have both of those things in a potential 3-catcher group, with Alvarez providing the offense and Omar Narvaez adding a LHB to the collection.

We’ve been back and forth over the pros and cons of having Alvarez on the Opening Day roster. Is it better for him to split time between C and DH and get 350 or so PA while getting coached by Glenn Sherlock and getting to witness firsthand how Narvaez and Nido operate or is it better for him to go to Triple-A where he can get full-time work as a catcher and not miss out on any development time, either offensively or defensively? It’s a question on which reasonable people can disagree.

If we assume that the Mets will have a 13-13 split between position players and pitchers, that means working with a four-man bench. You have the eight position player starters and the DH for your first nine and then the bench. The Mets almost certainly have three bench slots locked up with Nido, Luis Guillorme (also an early above-slot bonus guy) and Tommy Pham. It’s possible that the final spot comes down to a battle between Alvarez and Darin Ruf. And that battle comes down to philosophy at least as much as production.

Generally speaking, the Mets prefer youngsters to succeed at a level and then give him a mid-season promotion, rather than challenging the player with an initial spot at the higher level. It’s not necessarily a flawed philosophy. At least as long as you’re not keeping stiffs at the higher level just to make the youngster prove it, while the stiffs are given quasi sacred cow status.

Are Pham and Ruf stiffs? That’s another point where reasonable people can disagree, although perhaps with less wiggle room than with minor league promotion policy.

My philosophy is to play the odds on any and all roster decisions. Is it more likely that a non-elite veteran will bounce back from a down year in their mid-30s or that a highly-rated prospect will succeed with just 199 PA at Triple-A?

The Mets called up Andres Gimenez without any time at Triple-A and he responded with a 1.2 fWAR in 49 games and last year he had a 6.1 fWAR. They called up Jeff McNeil after 221 PA in Triple-A and he posted a 2.9 fWAR in 69 games. They promoted Michael Conforto with no Triple-A experience in 2015 and he responded with a 1.9 fWAR in 56 games.

This is not meant to imply that there are only success stories when promoting guys with limited Triple-A experience. Amed Rosario is certainly a guy who didn’t experience immediate success. Rather, this is a challenge. Name me three veterans in their mid-30s (or older) coming off down seasons who posted a 1.2 or greater fWAR with the Mets since 2015, when Conforto made his mark. That 1.2 is the lowest total among the three rookies mentioned above.

Off the top of my head, the last veteran on the Mets to bounce back from a poor season in their mid-30s was Marlon Byrd in 2013. As a 34 year old in 2012, Byrd had a (-1.1) fWAR. The following year with the Mets, he put up a 3.3 fWAR in 117 games before being traded. It should be noted that Byrd was busted for PED use in both 2012 and 2016 and that his results in 2013 should be looked at with at least some skepticism.

It’s my opinion that Alvarez is ready to contribute right now and the Mets would be a better team with him getting PA rather than Pham or Ruf. In order to do that, they’ll have to be willing to buck convention and carry three catchers. It’s long been a tenet of mine that MLB teams are better off doing what’s best for them, rather than what every other team in the league is doing. Who cares if every other team in the majors carries a LOOGY if your lefty relievers are terrible? Likewise, the Mets shouldn’t care one bit if no other team carries three catchers in 2023.

Their concern should be what gives them the best chance to win.

12 comments on “The Tomas Nido contract and the practicality of carrying three catchers

  • MikeW

    I think Alvarez should make the squad. He brings a tremendous amount of power potential.

  • ChrisF

    Always an appreciated in-depth analysis. You certainly are unwavering for Alvarez now camp. I generally am not that interested in the minimal AAA experience and “hope for miracles” that typically attend players that simply are not the absolute best at everything they do, like say a Bryce Harper. I dont believe anyone envisions that. In fact Keith Law does not even have Alvarez as the highest ranked catcher.

    But all that aside, and let’s all agree the bat is ready for the pros. Alvarez plays catcher. No matter what, this position requires a level of defensive skill that exceeds all others by miles. Not only that, but pitchers need to develop a working relationship with their receiver. That is a lot of ask to put on a player with 50ish AAA games. The fact is we have 2 CY veteran pitchers that know what they need in a catcher – their job is not to teach someone live time how to receive. There clearly is comfort throwing to Nido who apparently has skills that are valued as a receiver.

    Let’s say Alvarez was a corner outfielder. I’d be all in favor of his advancement now. Let’s have Alvarez do as much to learn the position better, and perhaps get in better physical shape. The fact is for an elite athlete that plays a so physically demanding position he needs to be in better shape IMO.

  • Hobie

    I’m fine with 3 catchers (Berra, Howard, Blanchard? Campy, Roseboro, Rube Walker?), even if it meant a 7-man BP—but prefer 8.
    Sherlock’s role got changed for a reason and a big part of that is Alvarez 1-on-1. Does 60G at DH, 40 at #2 and some PHing give him enough AB’s? Hopefully there’s increased comfort with him behind the plate com Sept/Oct.
    The bigger problem imo is Pham/Ruf; no way can carry both. My dream is tha Baty gets a shot at LF and Canha is the 4th OF. With Louis G as UT & 3 catchers, that’s your 13 non-P’s.

    • Brian Joura

      I dig the references to the old Yankees and Dodgers.

      The more I think about the Pham signing, the less I like it. And I pretty much started out hating it. The one good thing is that the Mets showed they were willing to move on from Cano after a month of lousy production. Maybe they’ll do the same with either Pham/Ruf in ’23

  • T.J.

    Excellent write-up Mr. J. I was quite surprised when the two year deal with Nido was announced. I found it to be curious…yes Nido is good defensively and the pitchers like him, but what to do with all of these catchers? It seems clear by that signing the 3 “catchers” will be in play for the major league roster. If not day 1, certainly at some point, and most likely early.

    The Mets have stated that they won’t have a set DH. I favor this approach as it allows for keeping “regular” bats in the lineup while also managing workload. The Mets looked tired at the end of 2022 and their core guys did not get many days off.
    Anyhow, at this point I will trust Buck/Eppler to make the call on Alvarez up or down from day 1. As stated above, reasonable minds can disagree, so I think that while it isn’t wise to put too much value in the ST results, that long look and assessment of exactly where Alvarez is catching-wise will provide value in deciding where he starts. And frankly the same can be said for Baty. These are big decisions.

    • Brian Joura

      Do you have a link for the no set DH?

      With Vogelbach not facing LHP, they’ll clearly use multiple people in the role. Guess I was hoping for a consistent RHB part of the platoon but if they carry both Pham & Ruf, it’s not too hard to see them giving both of those guys ABs in that slot.

  • Metsense

    Last year the Mets faced 55 left-handed starting pitchers. That’s 34% of the games that Alvarez could catch. To give this opportunity to him, the Epler has to trade Ruf or Nido. Contrctally, Narvaez can’t be traded until the summer because he was a free agent. Nido has more trade value than Ruf. Pham and Ruf could be DH vs LHP.
    Alvarez would get benefits of; experience an the ML level, work with the pitching staff from the beginning, low pressure position as a backup, attend meetings for game plans and work with Sherlock every day. The cherry topping would be that he would be a power bat on the bench.

  • Footballhead

    Metsense points are extremely valid and solid. Unless Alvarez stinks up the place in ST, he should be on the squad. Conversely; Ruf & Pham better hit like crazy and prove they shouldn’t be cut. I really don’t understand why the Mets brought in so many aging bodies to clog up the development path of Alvarez, Baty, and Vientos.

  • Nym6986

    I’ve consistently lobbied for Alvarez to start the season at Citifield, serving as the RH DH and catching one third of the games. If he is the real deal with the bat, then we need his HR potential n the lineup. I like Nido but he is a back up and smart enough to know it. He will help Alvarez develop.

  • JamesTOB

    If memory serves, Edgardo Alfonzo also made the jump from AA to the majors and performed excellently. Alfonzo’s 29.7 wins above replacement (WAR) as a Met place him as the seventh most valuable player in franchise history.

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