By Mike Addvensky
The New York Mets have cooled off since their 11-1 start, yet they still sit atop the National League East one month into the season. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has the chance to improve his team by adding another catcher, thereby solidifying a position that has been a question mark for the last few weeks.
The catching situation has been a problem for the Mets ever since Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki both got injured in April. D’Arnaud was placed on the 10-day disabled list on April 11 because a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He underwent Tommy John surgery on April 17 to repair the torn UCL.
After d’Arnaud landed on the DL, Plawecki was given the opportunity to be the starting catcher. However, he suffered a broken left hand after getting hit by the pitch in a game against the Miami Marlins on April 11. Plawecki was expected to miss three to four weeks, but it looks like he will be out for longer than that. The Mets will probably have to wait at least two more weeks until he is ready to rejoin the team.
Even when Plawecki does return, it is unclear whether or not he will be able to produce enough to be the Mets’ everyday catcher. He is a career .219 hitter. Before getting injured, he was batting just .150 in 20 at-bats. In all fairness to him, we have yet to see what Plawecki can do over a full season. However, this is mainly because he has had issues staying healthy. Additionally, when Plawecki has been healthy, he has not hit enough to be a starting catcher.
With d’Arnaud out for the season and Plawecki still on the DL, Alderson has to consider trading for a catcher. The Mets are not getting any production out of their two catchers right now. Jose Lobaton is hitting just .143, while Tomas Nido is batting .185. Neither catcher has been great with throwing out baserunners this season either. Nido has allowed seven stolen bases, while Lobaton has given up nine.
If Alderson does decide to make a move for a catcher, there are a few good options to pursue. The guy that the Mets are least likely to trade for is J. T. Realmuto. The Marlins are probably going to want a lot in return for Realmuto, as he’s one of the best hitting catchers in baseball. The Mets do not have enough top prospects in their farm system right now to be able to trade for a star player. Unless the Marlins would be interested in a package that includes Brandon Nimmo and Dominic Smith, it is unlikely that Realmuto becomes a Met.
Another option is Wilson Ramos. The Mets are very familiar with him, as he consistently got big hits against them when he was a member of the Washington Nationals. Ramos is currently with the Rays, a team that is not expected to compete this season. In 21 games, he is batting .293 with four home runs and 13 RBIs. He is making $8.5 million this season and is only under contract through the end of the year.
One final guy that Alderson could try and trade for is Jonathan Lucroy. The Athletics could be willing to deal him if the right offer is there. A two-time All-Star, Lucroy has not gotten off to the best start offensively this season. He is hitting .256 and has seven RBIs, but has yet to hit a home run. Lucroy signed a one-year, $6.5 million contract with the Athletics in the offseason. Considering that he’s only under contract for the rest of this season, the Mets might be able to trade for him without giving up too much.
The Mets desperately need an upgrade at catcher right now. Lobaton and Nido are not giving them anything offensively. We don’t know what Plawecki will be when he comes back. If the Mets want to really take control of the NL East, Alderson should be aggressive and trade for a catcher.