Mets catcher search: Tyler Flowers would be an upgrade over Tomas Nido
By Allen Settle
The New York Mets made one of their bigger offseason splashes when they inked former All-Star James McCann as their starting catcher. The move represents a massive improvement over the terribly unbalanced efforts of Wilson Ramos.
McCann is expected to emerge as the best dual-threat catcher (competent in both offense and defense) in recent Mets history. He should make a noticeable and immediate impact on the team in 2021 and beyond.
However, recent reports suggest that New York is still actively seeking an upgrade at the catcher position. While McCann’s status as the everyday starter is cemented in stone, the Mets are reportedly considering veteran backstop Tyler Flowers as a backup option.
The 12-year MLB veteran is still a valuable commodity. However, these rumors bring up obvious questions about the future of incumbent backup Tomas Nido.
Which would be the superior option as the backup backstop in 2021? Let’s discuss!
The New York Mets’ Offense
Neither Flowers nor Nido is known for their offensive firepower. However, it appears as though one player does have a noticeable edge in this category.
Flowers is a career .237 hitter who posted a lowly .217 batting average in 2020. He has a modest amount of power, pacing for 17 home runs over a 162 game schedule. It would also appear likely that the now 35-year-old’s best offensive number are behind him.
Despite his age, the veteran is the superior hitter in the matchup. The 26-year-old Nido has been an unfortunately poor batsman over the course of his career. Over four seasons in the major leagues, he has posted a lifetime .197 batting average. He also carries less power potential, with a 12 homer projection over a full season.
Neither player offers a major upside. However, Flowers has the highest potential to produce at a league-average level.
This category is far more interesting. Nido, a lifetime member of the Mets, has built a good rapport with the Mets’ longtime starting pitchers. This is particularly true in the case of Noah Syndergaard, who has previously used Nido as his personal backstop. He is a good defender with a reputation for controlling the basepaths and working well with his staff.
On the other hand, Flowers is also known for his defensive ability. In fact, Flowers’ ability to remain at the major league level for well over a decade can be attributed, in large part, to his defensive abilities. He has become crafty at framing pitches and controlling/calling games.
As things currently stand, Flowers is projected to produce better defensive metrics (5.4 defensive rating by Steamer and 9.3 by ZiPS) than Nido (4.5 by Steamer and 7.2 by ZiPS).
Much to the surprise of many Mets fans, Flowers is projected to be a superior defensive option. Nido gets a boost due to his history with Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom. However, at best, their defensive potential is a flush.
The Other Factors
There are a small handful of other factors that should be considered. Flowers has an advantage in terms of experience and leadership. However, Nido’s younger age makes him a candidate to fulfill the role of backup catcher for a longer period of time.
Neither moves the needle enough to make a noticeable difference. Which brings us to…
Tomas Nido has served the Mets well during his time with the franchise. However, as the 2021 season is concerned, the veteran bat and leadership factors of Flowers make him a better option as the Mets’ backup catcher.
In a perfect world, New York could sign Flowers and use Nido as an emergency catcher in their farm system. However, a lack of remaining minor league options requires the Mets to keep Nido on their major league roster or release him outright.
While this is an unfortunate factor in their decision, the Mets would still be wise to seriously pursue a union with Flowers. A one-two punch of McCann and Flowers would give New York an extremely well-rounded tandem of catchers to deploy on game day.
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The 2021 season will be incredibly important to the new-era Mets. They should do everything in their power to assure the best possible depth chart. In the case of their number two catcher, they should elect Flowers over Nido.