Multi-year outlook at the catcher position
By Mason Smoller
Everyone knows the tale of the catcher position in Queens. The New York Mets have been searching for Mike Piazza’s replacement ever since 2005, with numerous prospects and veterans being unable to lock things down behind the plate. Therefore, it is easy to understand why the Mets are so excited for Francisco Alvarez to arrive at the show.
Despite just turning 20-years-old, Alvarez is the Mets top prospect, the second-ranked catching prospect, and the 13th overall prospect in all of baseball. Between his power at the plate and plus arm behind the plate, Alvarez offers the Mets a long-term solution at catcher.
The only questions that remains – when will Francisco Alvarez make his MLB debut?
Mets will keep Alvarez in minors
As enamored as fans have become with Venezuelan native, it is going to be at least another year before he is even considered for the main roster. To date, Alvarez has only played two seasons in the minors (2019 and 2021). He has only taken 484 at-bats across two seasons and finished this past season in high single-A.
The most intriguing part of Alvarez’s game is his bat. In those 484 at-bats, Alvarez has hit 31 home runs, brought home 96 runs, all while hitting for a .285 batting average. As his offense is one of his strengths, the Mets would love to see him continue to rate as he works his way up the minor league system.
There is also the matter of his defense. Alvarez has a strong arm behind the plate capable of catching runners. He is still polishing up his skills, as it should be his focus in 2021.
Mets current catchers
Last off-season, the Mets set aside signing J.T. Realmuto in favor of James McCann. A decision that while McCann has a significantly cheaper deal, already looks like the wrong one. After all, McCann had his worst season since 2018 – his final with the Detroit Tigers.
Like many of his Mets teammates, McCann is a bounce-back candidate, in large part because he needs to be. New York gave him a deal through the 2024 season picturing him as the bridge to Alvarez. Should he continue to struggle, McCann’s deal is going to become a stain on the Mets payroll.
Here is where things get interesting. With McCann under contract through 2024 and Alvarez expected to hit the majors in 2023, Tomas Nido’s status becomes a mystery. Do the Mets carry three catchers on the 26-man roster?
Unlikely. Nido’s final year of arbitration is 2024, as he will join McCann in free agency in 2025. Nido has also had his own issues, being that he is inconsistent at the plate even though he is set behind it.
Lastly, Patrick Mazeika finds himself as the Mets third catcher in 2022, and maybe beyond. Under contract through 2028, Mazeika positions himself well to factor into the catcher rotation down the line. With Mazeika on the 40-man roster, it threatens Nido or McCann when it is time to hand the starting job to Alvarez.
Mets have decision to make in 2023
It is only a matter of time before Francisco Alvarez’s arrival to the majors forces the Mets to move on from one of James McCann, Tomas Nido, or Patrick Mazeika. Odds are, contractually, McCann will be a Met all four years of his deal.
Thus, leaving either Nido or Mazeika being traded down the line. And because Nido is set to be a free agent at the same time as McCann, Mazeika could very well take his spot behind Alvarez and McCann when the time comes.