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Mets: Can Tomas Nido handle backup catcher duties in 2021?

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 12: Tomas Nido #3 of the New York Mets in action against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citi Field on September 12, 2019 in New York City. The Mets defeated the Diamondbacks 11-1. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 12: Tomas Nido #3 of the New York Mets in action against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citi Field on September 12, 2019 in New York City. The Mets defeated the Diamondbacks 11-1. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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Tomas Nido is currently in line to back up starting catcher James McCann in 2021. Is this the best option for the New York Mets?

The catchers’ position for the New York Mets has undergone a major overhaul during the 2020 offseason. After cutting ties with former players Wilson Ramos and Robinson Chirinos, the team was able to land a long-term replacement in the form of James McCann. The team was also a potential suitor for superstar JT Realmuto before ultimately electing to move in another direction.

While the franchise is in a prime position to benefit from their best all-around catcher in recent memory, there is one last aspect of the position to consider: backup catcher.

The incumbent option, Tomas Nido, is still under contract in 2021. Is he the man for the job? Or should New York consider other options for their second backstop? Let’s dive in:

Tomas Nido

The 26-year-old catcher has spent the entirety of his four-year major league career as a member of the Mets’ organization. During his time in Queens, he has displayed qualities that could make him a serviceable backup moving forward. One, in particular, stands out in a major way: Nido’s rapport with the starting pitching staff.

While serving as a backup to the defensively challenged Ramos, Nido quickly became a favorite of several key players. Ace Jacob deRom thrived during his time working with the backstop, while Noah Syndergaard even went so far as to request Nido as his personal catcher. The Mets would be foolish to ignore the fact that two of their most important pieces have voiced this type of public support for Nido.

The primary reason for this connection would seem to be predicated on defense. While Nido’s hitting ability to sorely lacking, he has shown proficiency as a pitch framer and defender.

The Other Options

It is worth noting that the team’s other options for backup catcher may be limited. With McCann now off the market, the free agency pool is considerably thin. Veteran players such as Tyler Flowers, Jason Castro, Curt Casali, and Yadier Molina headline a list of low-cost alternatives. A few other names including Pedro Severino (Orioles), Willians Astudillo (Twins), and Sean Murphy (A’s), have also been mentioned as potential trade pieces. While any of the names on this second list would be obvious upgrades, they would also require assets in return.

A trade for any of these options could likely be reached at minimal cost to the Mets. However, New York does find itself in a unique offseason where financial funding is far more limitless than trade assets. This leaves one of the free agent options as the most likely and logical avenues.

The Dilemma

While Nido does boast a solid defensive reputation and a good relationship with the team’s two best pitchers, one does wonder how much his skillset will be utilized with McCann in the fold. The skills that once separated the backstop from Ramos are now dwarfed in comparison to the franchise’s new primary catcher.

There is also a real question concerning Nido’s offensive competence. For his career, the veteran has recorded a lifetime batting average of just .197. He also holds a career WAR of -1.1.

On the other hand, any of the top remaining free agents would provide a potential boost. Molina would be the most complete weapon on the table. He is still a top-tier defender and boasts a .281 career average. However, the 38-year-old is expected to seek a starter’s role and a $9+ million annual salary.

Each of the remaining options are potential upgrades. However, each is over the age of 30 and holds career averages in the .230s.

The Verdict

This begs the obvious question: What is the Mets’ best move? Considering all the information above, there is one path that allows the team to assemble the best Opening Day roster at the most reasonable cost.

The first step is to offer a Casali a reasonable 1–2-year contract at around $1-$1.5 million per season. This would provide the team with a quality backup how is both a reputation defender and a serviceable hitter.

Unfortunately, this puts the team in an awkward spot with Nido, who is now out of minor league options. However, if outside interest in the longtime Met is not high, perhaps the two parties can work out a way for Nido to serve as an emergency option. Regardless, a one-two punch of McCann and Casali is New York’s best combination for 2021.

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