The New York Mets may not enter 2019 with Travis d’Arnaud as the backup catcher. In fact, they have a way to move on from him entirely for a small fee this spring.
Back in November at the non-tender deadline, I was surprised to see the New York Mets tender a contract to oft-injured catcher Travis d’Arnaud. d’Arnaud missed nearly all of 2018 due to Tommy John Surgery. And while he should recover well for the upcoming campaign, there’s not a strong enough resume to justify one final season of seeing him in New York.
Thankfully, they did upgrade the catcher position this winter by signing free agent Wilson Ramos. This has pushed d’Arnaud into a reserve role. However, it doesn’t guarantee the job.
In addition to adding Ramos, the Mets brought back Devin Mesoraco on a minor league deal. Mesoraco was the man they landed in the Matt Harvey trade with the Cincinnati Reds back in May. He became the unofficial personal catcher for Jacob deGrom which I assume is a major reason why they decided his services could be useful in 2019.
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The Mets could conceivably carry three catchers on the roster to open the year. This isn’t very logical, though. Carrying three catchers for anything longer than an emergency situation depletes your bench. Instead, they should escape the deal with d’Arnaud.
If the Mets choose to, they can release d’Arnaud before Spring Training ends and owe him only a portion of his salary. The earlier they do it, the less of his current contract they will owe him. Typically, it works out to about one-sixth of a player’s salary.
As he’s on a non-guaranteed contract because of his arbitration eligibility for 2019, the Mets have an important decision to make early on in spring. Do they keep d’Arnaud as the primary backup or pay him to go away?
Quickly polling fans on Twitter, it seems many have experienced d’Arnaud fatigue. While citing a previous post by Rising Apple’s Edward Lennon, many believed Mesoraco was the more deserving player to win the backup catcher role in Flushing. I don’t blame them. Mesoraco exceeded expectations as a catcher and was one of the better catchers at the plate for the Mets in 2018, which isn’t saying much.
There’s no doubt Mesoraco deserves an opportunity to compete for playing time this year. I’ll also say that d’Arnaud needs to earn his job as well.
Back in 2017, the Washington Nationals did something similar with catcher Derek Norris. While prepared to enter the year with Norris and Jose Lobaton as their catchers, they ended up signing Matt Wieters in Spring Training. This gave them a reason to take back the decision to sign Norris, which they did shortly after adding Wieters to the organization.
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Could the Mets follow suit and send d’Arnaud packing before Opening Day? Ask most Mets fans and you’ll get a resounding “yes.”