Mets: Giving Noah Syndergaard a personal catcher is a “necessary evil”
By Tim Boyle
Letting Noah Syndergaard pitch to the catcher of his choice may be a “necessary evil” for the New York Mets in 2020.
An ongoing “controversy” during the 2019 New York Mets season was the desire of pitcher Noah Syndergaard to pitch to practically anyone other than starting catcher Wilson Ramos. On two separate occasions, it leaked that he was unhappy whenever Ramos was behind the dish.
By year’s end, the Mets finally started pairing Tomas Nido or Rene Rivera with Syndergaard. They did so somewhat reluctantly as if they were giving into Syndergaard’s demands. In actuality, they were giving the team its best shot at winning.
Syndergaard wasn’t a lock to perform well whenever Nido or Rivera were catching him just as he didn’t always get pummeled whenever Ramos was there. There was no perfect formula for getting the best out of Thor. However, his own comfort is what makes a personal catcher for him in 2020 a necessary evil.
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What’s so evil about this? Well, offensively the team is going to struggle.
Nido had only a short streak when he seemed to hit like a big-league backup. As he got more playing time, things evened out. His overall 2019 numbers don’t justify the regular playing time a personal catcher would get. At best, he’s performing like a second-string catcher behind someone who starts 130+ games a year. Given Ramos’ age and injury history, he’s not quite there.
A personal catcher for Syndergaard could benefit him and the team. The only issue I foresee is Jacob deGrom also had a preference to pitch to someone other than Ramos in 2019. They can’t both have a personal catcher. In which case, the best course of action is to find a new everyday backstop. This is where a guy like Yasmani Grandal comes into the picture.
I think the Mets will have a tough time trading Ramos. If they are able to move him, it would be in a deal to clear up a roster spot and dump some salary. They aren’t getting much in return at all for him.
In doing so, Nido or whoever becomes the backup catcher would start about once every six or seven games instead of every five. Over the course of 162 games, it would make a difference. More importantly, the Mets could put out a lineup with either man behind the plate when Syndergaard, deGrom, and anyone else takes the mound.
The challenge here is we don’t know how the Mets pitchers would respond to Grandal. For all we know, history repeats and he doesn’t mesh well with the team’s starters.
Rather than go for a catcher like Grandal, the Mets should think about finding an upgrade behind Ramos. Someone capable of being on the short side of a platoon may be the direction they should take. Nido doesn’t have star power and could benefit from regular at-bats in Triple-A at the start of next season. Maybe then he can turn into a more suitable backup catcher beginning in 2021.
There’s no long-term plan for the catching position in Queens. Prospect Francisco Alvarez has shown plenty of potential down on the farm, but he’s a few years away from making his debut.
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The Mets are in win-now mode for 2020. This means making sacrifices in some areas to improve others. One of those sacrificial lambs may end up being the offense they got from the catcher whenever Syndergaard is on the mound.