Tomas Nido’s time as the New York Mets backup catcher could come to an end before the year begins. Does he deserve one last chance?
The New York Mets begin the 2020 MLB season with high aspirations and championship dreams. For the first time in years, the team boasts several dangerous hitters such as Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and Michael Conforto. This, in tandem with the franchise’s loaded pitching staff of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Dellin Betances, and Edwin Diaz, should put the team in an excellent position.
However, while the roster looks as loaded as it has been in several seasons, there are still a few question marks remaining. Chief among them is the battle at backup catcher. The Mets wisely elected to retain 2019 starter Wilson Ramos. The 32-year-old’s 14 home runs, 73 RBI, and .288 average gave the franchise the most productivity they have seen from their catcher position in several years.
However, a recent reunion with journeyman Rene Rivera has created competition for the second backstop. Rivera, who has played for the Mets one and off since 2016, will compete with incumbent Tomas Nido for the right to back up Ramos.
Let’s take a look at how the two options compare.
Both players are considered to be defensive specialists at the major league level. While it is important that either be ready to work under any circumstances, there is one factor that rises above all others: a rapport with Syndergaard.
While Syndergaard is clearly a gifted pitcher, he struggled working with Ramos. In fact, the went as far as asking to work exclusively with a personal catcher last season.
Both Nido and Rivera have a good track record with Thor. Rivera played two games (12.2 innings) with the starter last season to the tune of a 2.84 ERA, a .265 batting average allowed, and five stolen bases allowed.
Nido, on the other hand, recorded 78 innings in tandem with Syndergaard. During that time, the pitcher posted a 2.88 ERA, with a .230 batting average allowed along with 16 stolen bases allowed. The pair also recorded 73 innings in 2018 (with a 1.97 ERA, .219 batting average allowed, and 10 stolen bases allowed).
While the production is similar, Nido gets the edge based on his larger sample size with Thor.
Neither player is considered to be a dangerous hitter. However, the player that wins the roster spot will likely receive multiple at-bats every week.
Rivera has a career average of .221, including .235 last season. While this is considered poor production by any standard, it easily tops Nido’s career mark of .187 (including .191). Rivera also posted a higher overall WAR (-0.1) compared to Nido (-0.7) in 2019.
Give the offensive advantage to Rivera.
The only other major factor in the battle deals with the player’s ages. Nido, who is currently 25 years old, has spent his entire three years MLB career in Flushing. Rivera, who is an 11-years journeyman, is currently 36 years old.
To be clear, there is a distinct value in veteran experience. The Mets, who are obviously in “win-now” mode, could also benefit from a better bat in their lineup. These factors make this a difficult decision for general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and company.
Considering all of this information, Nido should be given a slight edge to begin the season on the main roster. Not only does he have the benefit of more time working with Syndergaard, but his age gives him additional overall value. Unless the Mets are able to trade Nido for something worthwhile, they should select Nido has their backup catcher in 2020, while keeping Rivera on speed-dial in the event an injury occurs.
However, the player’s performances during Spring Training could be enough to turn the tables.
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Who do you think is most deserving of the backup catcher position?