When the Mets added Gary Sanchez 10 days ago, David Groveman reached out to me and was supportive of the move, figuring that the Mets weren’t using Francisco Alvarez properly and that they could send him back down and install Sanchez as the club’s primary catcher. My response then was that Buck Showalter was using Alvarez just fine. And besides that, Sanchez wasn’t very good. Actually, my reply was stronger about my dislike for Sanchez but you get the idea.

Late Thursday night, the Mets promoted Sanchez to the majors. Sanchez joined the Mets after opting out of his deal with the Giants. He had a similar opt out with the Mets and the deadline was fast approaching. Sanchez certainly helped himself with his performance at Triple-A Syracuse. In seven games with the Mets’ top affiliate, he had a .318/.531/.546 line in 32 PA.

In yesterday’s Game Chatter, we talked some about the Mets’ reluctance to call up Ronny Mauricio. My take is that the Mets don’t want to call up Mauricio and will only do so if one of their outfield starters makes it impossible to keep playing him every day. Either Mark Canha or Starling Marte will have to continue their sub-par performances for Mauricio to get the call and for Jeff McNeil to become an outfielder.

It won’t work if Tommy Pham is the guy on the way out. In that case, the Mets will activate Tim Locastro to be the club’s fourth outfielder. And that’s what we’re seeing with Sanchez.

The charitable reading of the situation is that the Mets don’t want to call up a rookie to be a bench player. The less kind take is that the Mets will give a shot to a veteran, regardless of the role, while all the stars have to be aligned perfectly for a rookie to get any kind of a chance.

That’s why we get the Travis Jankowskis and the Phams and now the Sanchezes of the world. You know the kind – the ones who were last good three or more years ago on a different club, ones with little chances to be good with any kind of meaningful playing time. Pham has received 87 PA to date, a pace that would have him amass over 300 PA in a 162-game season. And you could easily argue if he was performing better, he’d have even more PA.

Is 300-plus PA not a big enough role to break in a rookie to the majors?

Getting back to Sanchez, it’s certainly not sure what the Mets’ plan is with him. Or for all of their catchers for that matter. Alvarez is certainly the future but is he the right now? It looked that way when he clubbed the game-tying homer in the bottom of the ninth with two outs a couple of nights ago. But with the Mets’ preference for old guys – who knows?

Do the Mets equally split the catching duties between Alvarez and Sanchez until either Tomas Nido or Omar Narvaez return? And if so, does that mean they take advantage of the opportunity to send Alvarez back to the minors when one of those catchers returns, considering they didn’t even want to promote him in the first place?

And if Nido has the same production as Sanchez at Syracuse, does he leap back to be the starting catcher, given how the Mets think he’s a great defensive backstop? And what happens when Narvaez returns? Will the Mets extend both middle fingers to those of us who wanted Alvarez to make the team out of Spring Training and keep three catchers, with Alvarez still in the minors?

There’s a dizzying array of options available here.

Also, there’s an additional thought to keep in mind. GM Billy Eppler was with the Yankees when Sanchez was one of their top prospects, which no doubt played into his decision to sign him this year for the Mets. Is Eppler’s familiarity with Sanchez more important than the fact that in his last three years in the majors, Sanchez – an offensive-first catcher – has an 89 OPS+ in 1,089 PA?

It’s not a particularly large leap to say that while the Mets don’t want to give a shot to a rookie unless they absolutely have to, they’re quite willing to give Sanchez an opportunity to create a role for himself with the big league club.

Without a doubt, Sanchez has MLB power. And while his offense has taken a major hit in the last few years, allegedly he’s now a much-better defensive catcher. It’s not like he doesn’t bring a single thing to the table. But if you already have macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and stuffing – do you need rice, too? If another mediocre catcher becomes available, say, Andrew Knizner – do the Mets sign him, too?

It’s maddening to me when a veteran with 32 good PA at Triple-A gets a call to the majors with no clear shot at playing time, while a rookie with 176 PA can’t get the time of day. And it’s extra frustrating when you can envision a scenario where the Mets use Sanchez to foff Alvarez out of playing time, too.

As odd as it seems, the one wild card here is Showalter. Eppler may have final say on who’s on the roster but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Showalter is going to cede control over who’s in the starting lineup to the GM. Showalter might have been slow to warm up to playing Alvarez more than Nido but that’s exactly what he ended up doing. Perhaps he won’t be so quick to give significant playing time to Sanchez, either.

That’s certainly my hope.

12 comments on “Mets decide Ronny Mauricio is no Gary Sanchez

  • T.J.

    I share your dismay that the Mets favor vets too much, and that they hold off promoting prospects, especially blue chip prospects that earn a promotion through performance. However, I think the Sánchez/Mauricio situation is apples and oranges. I have never been thrilled with Sánchez, especially his defense, and his offensive numbers over the last 3 seasons don’t lie. But Mauricio doesn’t play catcher, and the Met catchers nut named Álvarez have been offensively dreadful. The choices right now are Sánchez vs. Perez or Nido. Given that Sánchez has actually improved his defensive game, and given that Álvarez looks MLB capable defensively, at least to the eye test, then even a diminished Sanchez is way better offensively than Pérez or Nido. Plus, he offers home run power that neither possesses. I like the move right now, he is worth a look at least for a few weeks until Nido is available and shows he can hit at least AAA pitching.

    Regarding Mauricio, he needs to get to Flushing ASAP…I’d do it today at the expense of Pham’s roster spot, moving McNeil to LF and Cahna to 4th OF. Escobar backs up Baty and Mauricio, and Mauricio backs up Lindor. Vientos get 50% of DH AB. Hopefully more long balls will bail out the old man pitching staff.

    • Brian Joura

      I get why you view it as an apples and oranges thing.

      But you think the main difference is that Sanchez is a catcher. But my view is that if he was an outfielder, he’d still get the same preferential treatment. And they would have called him up instead of Vientos if that was the case.

      None of us have any idea how the catching situation is going to work out. In less than a month, there will be four healthy guys and any configuration wouldn’t surprise me. Well, Nido starting and Alvarez as the backup would be a surprise. But there are at least half a dozen different ways this could materialize. And Sanchez is given the chance to create his role.

      My opinion is that if Mauricio was given the chance to create his role, that the chances for success for the Mets is far greater than it will be with Sanchez. That’s certainly an opinion, one with a decent chance of being wrong.

      But that’s why this is a direct comparison for me.

      • T.J.

        I agree that if Sanchez played another position they would promote him over a prospect. I share your distain over that. I just think rolling the dice on Sanchez as backup catcher for the next month, not taking AB from Alvarez, but replacing Perez/Nido is the best play for now.

  • MikeW

    Seven days and 32 plate appearances to anoint a new catcher. Maybe, he is the surprise of the year. I doubt it. In two weeks, I bet he is hitting .200. Then what, cut him and sign Hubie Brooks?

    The Mets need to stick to a plan of letting Alvarez play. Even if he hits .200, he is better than the other catchers.

  • deegrove84

    To defend myself a bit. Buck’s use of Alvarez almost immediately improved but I think that had to do with Nido’s injury. I was very much annoyed by the limited games Buck was giving him and thankfully that has changed.

    Right now, with Narvaez out, I am happier with Sanchez as the backup over Perez or even the 2023 version of Nido we’ve seen but that is as far as I would go. Sanchez’s numbers in AAA were solid for us but had significant flaws.

    With regard to Mauricio I cannot explain the team’s hesitance. His defense at 2nd has been pretty good and as other readers pointed out he can backup other positions in a pinch. My only thought is that Eppler believes that Escobar and or Canha will bounce back and doesn’t want to lock into a new player to do that.

    Ultimately, my level of anger at the Mets on this will be based upon the amount of playing time given to Vientos, Baty and Alvarez moving forward from today. The Mets sat Alvarez yesterday so I expect him in today’s lineup and not Sanchez who DH’d for Syracuse. Vogelbach started yesterday and, despite the Guardians having a righty on the mound, I expect Vientos to get the start.

  • Steve_S.

    I’m sure I’m missing something, but why again did Eppler sign both Narvaez and Nido—and for more than one year each on top of that?

    • Brian Joura

      Narvaez has an opt out after the first season. If he played well in 2023, he was going to opt out and go somewhere else for more money. If he didn’t succeed in 2023, he was in place to be the Mets’ backup in 2024.

      Nido was signed for less than 1/3 of what they’re paying Pham. If Narvaez comes back, he’s easy enough to cut if he doesn’t have an option left. And if Narvaez moves on, they have a backup locked in with Nido that they are very comfortable having in the game.

  • Metsense

    Alvarez (90 OPS+) is still slightly better than the 2022 version of Sanchez (88 OPS+) offensively. Alvarez is trending upward as he plays more. Defensively, Alvarez is better than Sanchez. Sanchez should be the backup and then evaluate the situation when Narvaez gets back. Nido and Perez shouldn’t be in the equation and all.
    Mauricio promotion is based on the outfielders production, specifically Pham, Canha and Marte. All three have trading value and one should be traded so then McNeil could be a starting outfielder. That would open up the majority of the playing time for Mauricio at second base. Until one of the three outfielders are traded or injured, Mauricio should stay in AAA. And that is a shame. It was poor roster building by Eppler in the offseason.

    • Brian Joura

      My opinion is that the roster building by Eppler in the offseason was fine, even if it’s not what I would have done.

      I didn’t like the Pham signing because I felt that money could have been better spent on a reliever. It would have been okay if they had signed a veteran fourth outfielder for Nido money. Almost no one anticipated major drops from both Canha and Marte with Mauricio playing significantly better in Triple-A than he did in Double-A.

      Rather, my issue is the determination displayed by Eppler to continue with the offseason plan. It was fine to be patient in April. But Canha and Marte both have 150-something PA now and there hasn’t been much improvement. It was one thing in 2021 to stay the course with underachieving veterans when there really wasn’t a realistic internal option. It’s another matter now with Mauricio available.

      • Metsense

        Alvarez was the number one prospect in all of baseball. Usually the top prospect in baseball graduates sometime in the next year . They had McCann and Nido. Nido was tendered Dec 1. McCann was traded on Dec 21. Which made room for Alvarez. Instead Eppler signed free agent Narvaez to a 2 year contact at $15m. If Alvarez wouldn’t be ready at the beginning of the year then the Mets would still have the coverage at catcher. Furthermore, they had room on the roster to carry three catchers if they wanted. Then it gets strange. Eppler then signs Pham, and for no reason he extends Nido for a 2-year, $3.7m contract on Jan 24. At that point, there are 11 of 13 contracted position players and Guillorme on the team. So there is one spot remaining for Alvarez, Baty, Vientos and Mauricio. Pham and Narvaez were unnecessary. Eppler spent $37.7m for the next two years because he didn’t have the patience to wait for Alvarez. Pham just tied up the flexibility of the roster. There were plenty players like Locastro out there to fill roster until a top prospect is ready.
        To me, Eppler didn’t build the roster properly.

  • Paulc

    Boo on the Sanchez move. I prefer Alvarez getting regular reps to adjust to MLB pitching and improve his D.

    Marte’s 65 OPS+ is a black hole. It’s early yet, but the Braves look good so there’s no time to waste. Call up Mauricio and put McNeil in the OF. In that scenario, though, I’m uncertain on who to let go: Canha, Pham, or Marte? I’d say Pham and then have Marte’s speed for a pinch runner or late inning defense off the bench.

    • Brian Joura

      Marte still has two more years on his contract so it won’t be him.

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