With John Buck‘s wife on the verge of having the long awaited “Young Buck”, Travis d’Arnaud will be called up to the big club at some point during the Mets’ west coast swing which goes to Arizona, Los Angeles and San Diego. The young catcher was one of the integral pieces the Mets received in exchange for 2012 CY Young Award winner RA Dickey. d’Arnaud is known to have all of the tools to be a successful catcher, but injury problems have slowed his young career. Still, he was thought to be Major League ready last season while with the Toronto Blue Jays organization.
He caught the injury bug with a bit of bad luck this year when a pitched was fouled off his foot while he was catching. His knack for not being on the field made many think d’Arnaud had the chance to be dealt for a big time outfielder such as Carlos Gonzalez or the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton. While many feel d’Arnaud is just a trade chip for the Mets to get even better things, it would be wise for the Mets to keep around the young catcher for a variety of reasons.
For one, it is not every day that you come across a young catcher who can both hit and play a solid defensive game. d’Arnaud can do both of those things. The San Francisco Giants have built their recent success around their stud catcher in Buster Posey. In Posey’s first two full seasons with the Giants, he helped them win World Series titles in both years. The Giants were in a similar situation not too long ago, with a lot of very good young arms, but very limited bats. With Posey hitting and calling games, the Giants have claimed two championships. While it hasn’t been just Posey helping the Giants, it’s hard to argue they would have won without him.
The Mets arguably haven’t had a solid backstop since the days of Paul LoDuca. While Brian Schneider could play defense, he was a liability at the plate. Rod Barajas had some pop, but wasn’t exactly a long term choice. Josh Thole had some opportunities, but seemed to only have the ability to catch Dickey. His offense was weak, and his defense was nothing to write home about. John Buck has had his moments of brilliance at the dish, especially in April. His defense has been inconsistent, though. d’Arnaud could fill a long time void that the Mets have had at the catching position.
Although it may just be coincidence, the Mets have had their best runs as a franchise when they have had a catcher that could be reliable in some form or another. In 1969 and 1973, the team’s first two World Series appearances, Jerry Grote called the games. While Grote wasn’t noted for his offense, he is one of the greatest defensive catchers in the history of the games. While he’s often overlooked, Grote not only handled a young pitching staff well, but he controlled the running game like no other.
During the Mets playoff years in the 80s, they had Hall of Famer Gary Carter behind the plate. In 1984, the Mets just missed out on the playoffs, and looked to need one more piece. Gary Carter fulfilled that need with his offense, defense, and his leadership which can not be understated. Carter was one of the reasons the Mets won their second World Series in 1986.
During the late 1990s, the Mets were again on the verge of being a playoff team. In 1998 they made a blockbuster deal that landed All Star catcher Mike Piazza. The rest was history from there as the Mets got the greatest hitting catcher of all time. He was part of the only Mets team to reach the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. His presence and bat most definitely were among the reasons the Mets were successful.
While Travis d’Arnaud may never be anything like the previous catchers, he can bring stability to the catching position. The Mets have been starved at the position in recent years, and a young catcher like him can be huge. A young prospect that has all the tools to be successful behind the dish should stay with the team, not be dealt for someone else.