Three Backup Catching Options Mets Should Pursue

According to reports, the New York Mets are currently looking to upgrade their bullpen and backup catcher situation. While Tomas Nido was a strong defensive catcher, he had just a 40 wRC+, which probably necessitates this search.

Ideally, whomever the Mets acquire can offer the Nido’s defensive abilities while also providing a better bat. Also, given the Mets shoestring budget, the player they acquire is likely going to have to be cheap. Here are five catchers who should meet those requirements:

Kevin Plawecki

The mention of Plawecki may not excite Mets fans who had grown exacerbated with his never quite fulfilling his offensive potential. Even with his offensive struggles in Cleveland, Plawecki’s 63 wRC+ was far better than Nido’s. If he reverts to the catcher who had a 10.8% walk rate and 96 OPS+ in his final three years with the Mets all the better.

Another factor with Plawecki is he has historically been a strong pitch framer. As noted by Baseball Savant, Plawecki was a strong pitch framer on the lower half of the plate. That is of no small significance with a pitching staff which includes Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, Jeurys Familia, and Edwin Diaz.

Of note with Syndergaard, who had his issues with Wilson Ramos, his 5.33 K/BB with Plawecki behind the plate is the best mark he has had with any catcher not named Rene Rivera.

Russell Martin

On the topic of the Mets pitchers who need the low strike to succeed, there was a Grantland article which described Martin’s strong framing, which included his exceptional work on the lower half of the zone. While he is not the same framer he was in his prime, he is still one of the better framers in the lower part of the zone getting a called strike a little over 50% of the time.

In addition to framing the low strike, Martin had a strong offensive season for a backup catcher with an 83 wRC+. However, it should be noted that was part of a three year drop off offensively, and he is 36 years old. Still, Martin is a respected veteran presence, and that should not be underestimated.

If the Mets do change course and go with the personal catcher route, it would be much more palatable to Ramos and the clubhouse for the Mets to defer to a catcher of Martin’s stature than it probably was with Nido last year. Overall, this should help the clubhouse and the pitching staff. Speaking of saving the pitching staff, Martin can be relied upon as a reliever in blow out games.

Jason Castro

With the Mets hiring Jeremy Hefner as the pitching coach, the organization is looking for an advanced analytical approach to help bring the pitching staff to bring them to the next level. This requires the implementation of a new organizational philosophy across the board. That process could be helped along by the Mets bringing in Castro, who worked with Hefner in Minnesota.

In addition to his knowledge of what Hefner is looking to do, Castro is a strong framer, and like aforementioned catchers, he is strong in the lower parts of the zone. He is also exceptional at getting the corners. Unlike the aforementioned catchers, he was an above average league hitter with a 103 wRC+.

On that note, it was the highest mark he had in six years, and it was just the second time in the past decade he was an above-average league hitter. Of course, some of the impact to that is the ball which was much maligned last year. Despite that, Castro is still a good hitter for the position with strong framing metrics.

Looking beyond these three, it is difficult to find a catcher who would fulfill the criteria of being a better hitter than Nido as well as a strong framer, especially in the lower half of the zone. The framing in the lower half of the zone really needs to be a focus for this Mets team given their pitchers and in their attempts to find a complement to Ramos.

Other popular names like Martin Maldonado may not come as cheap, and others like a Francisco Cervelli do not have the lower half framing numbers you want. Those three catchers should be the overall upgrade at a cheap cost over Nido, who the Mets may very well lose as he is out of options.


22 thoughts on “Three Backup Catching Options Mets Should Pursue”

  1. Rich Hausig says:

    I know you guys love the framing, I think we need the best possible all-around defensive guy and that means he needs to be be able to throw out base-stealers (35%+) and communicate with the staff and the infield. With this lineup we should be able to carry a dead bat for 40-50 games if he can those things.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      People not only vastly overrate a catcher’s ability to throw out base runners, and they pin it too much on the catcher.

    2. Oldbackstop says:

      Framing is utter bunk, designed by the Big Stat industry desperate for a new product. When I meticulously explained all this to MD, he explained that the dramatic drops and rises in individual catchers were due to different catching coaches

      Yet he still quotes the framing BS without multiplying in his catching coach factor… like a Park Factor, I guess.

      1. metsdaddy says:

        Still waiting for an explanation why hitting stats aren’t “bunk” when Lucroy’s offensive numbers dropped off a cliff at the same time his framing numbers did.

        1. Oldbackstop says:

          There are dozens of similar examples, I’m not spoon feeding you them again.

          If you think it is injury or age, why the dissertation about catching coaches ?

          1. metsdaddy says:

            There aren’t, and so you haven’t.

            I’d also note I’d making the same coaching and age point with hitters, pitchers, and fielders.

        2. Rich Hausig says:

          Lucroy, for me, is exactly what I dont want. Hes a ave/above ave player because hes good at everything but not special in anything. Those guys, again for me, are less than the sum of their parts.

      2. Rich Hausig says:

        You and I are gonna be friends. Im a 3rd generation (amateur) catcher myself.

        I think the catching analytics, like those of interior defensive lineman, are limited because there are fewer measurables than at other positions.
        EX. Leo Williams and Quinnen Williams had the best overall ratings in their respective draft classes. Why? Strength, agility and motor (can you measure motor?) are the key traits. Once you ace those and add good character what is there to criticize? Just their actual (lack of) impact, once you see them on the field. ;-O

        So screw the stats, heres what Im looking for in my backups (starters too). 1 or 2 A+ skills. It could be he has a great arm or super athleticism behind the plate or is a great communicator and pitch caller. Something that the other team has to take notice of.

        Catcher is different than other positions. A strong, noticeable defender is greater than the sun of his parts. Put that guy out there and you will see the results no matter what he hits.

        1. metsdaddy says:

          Far too many people dismiss advanced data because it arrives at conclusions they don’t like.

          1. Rich Hausig says:

            I dont disagree with that. However, none of these analytics firms has the good seal of approval either and the answer is always somewhere in between, no?

            Quantifying these things is not easy and I think its fair to say that the estimates dont always match up to the eye test. I think its important all sides are considered when evaluating these things.

          2. metsdaddy says:

            I encourage a global view, but the framing numbers are extremely important

  2. Blair M. Schirmer says:

    A much more interesting issue than many put forward on sny’s metsblog.

    It’s a tough call, but Plaw strikes me as the slightly better bet (in the context of backup catchers) just based on age.
    With Martin at 37 and Castro at 33, the risk is significant that you’re signing either for his last and (if he just can’t cut it due to baseball old age) probably catastrophic season in the majors. At the same time, both were better than Plawecki last year.

    It would take some real digging to figure whether Plawecki is likely to return to his modest but useful 2017-2018 performance level. Then there’s the problem of, why did the Indians drop Plaw? A guy with his track record, even with his replacement level 2019 season, should be worth a little something in the event of a bounce back, especially with 3 controllable years remaining, and especially with the trivial $ he rated to get in his first arb year coming off a poor season. If he was going to make $1.6m in arb and the Indians weren’t going to keep him, is he really so unpromising that they couldn’t deal him for salary? If that’s the case, that’s worrisome.

    After a few minutes thought, of the three I think you go with Castro. Has the most recent good-hitting season, and as a part-timer he might add a win when the Mets are desperate to find a win or half-win anywhere they can. Even if more things go right than wrong, they’ll be on the fringes of the postseason, so they’ll need to squeeze the roster for everything they can.

    1. Oldbackstop says:

      Well, the Indians traded for Sandy Leon a few weeks back, so they were determined to shake up the position.

      I have no problem with Plawecki coming back as second string, I guess. Maybe a minor league deal if possible.

      Nido, I think, is not the second string, and he is out of options. Nowadays the second string is going to start 30-40 games….or should, it may be Ramos was overused last year. Ten years in at Age 31 he was called on to start ten more games than he ever had.

      Also, I read that Ramos was hurt by the criticism of his defense. Without analyzing his defense numbers, I believe he did much better at the tail end of the season, and has said to be embarking on an off season program focused on his defense.

      Ramos had a 2.0 WAR, remember….despite Thor’s whining, he is a top catcher overall. I think he will have a great year.

      1. Blair M. Schirmer says:

        @Oldbackstop — That’s right! I had forgotten they picked up Leon for a minor league pitcher with some of the … oddest lines I’ve ever seen. Bautista barely strikes out more guys than he walks.

        fwiw I didn’t have the issue with Ramos many did. A 2 win catcher for 10m AAV? Everyone short of Trout or Betts has issues, and his just happen to be more on defense than offense. I did think Grandal was worth the add’l 6-7m AAV, but last offseason most were figuring Ramos would get c. 3/35m. Wags getting him for around 2/20m was a steal. Add in the 10m option for 2021 (1.5m buyout) and it’s even better.

        Nido’s value once he was out of options plummeted. Not sure what the Mets are planning to do with the 26th roster spot, but I don’t think he’d be a particularly good use of it, even if they sign a better backup catcher.

        1. Oldbackstop says:

          @Blair: great answer, although I don’t if you realize “he is a bad catcher.” is all that is required.

          In Baseball Reference last year, his dWAR was .0.2. In ten years he has only had one negative dWAR season, and that was only -.02. So he has 9 out of 10 positive dWAR seasons.

          I think his defense was falsely denigrated by the struggling Thor this year.

          1. Blair M. Schirmer says:

            Thanks! Thor’s travails surely didn’t help Ramos’ rep, nor could his D have been improved by a personal record high for games played. Fwiw in mid-2019 when I saw Ramos getting very few days off I checked his pace (which was usually for 140 to 150 games played over a full season) and noticed that 140+ is as much or more (typically more) than even the iron men of catchers were typically playing once they reached their early 30s: Ivan Rodriguez, Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk… I don’t think any of them played that much. (Okay, Roddy played 144, beating Ramos by three, but only averaged 129 games across his age 30 to 32 seasons. The other two played 130 and 91 games played, respectively.)

            Then there’s Gary Carter, who played 149 at 31, but never played as many as 140 again. Piazza was down to 136 and never beat 141 games after that. Berra played 140 at 31 and never again played more than that.

            And those are the HOFers, the first 6 in history by bWAR. It’s almost impossible to believe Ramos’ defense (and offense) wasn’t hurt by overuse. It’d be nice to see them pick up a good backup C and see what Ramos can do with proper rest on a 110 game schedule.

          2. metsdaddy says:

            That’s simply not true. Every metric has him as a terrible catcher

          3. Oldbackstop says:

            Thanks Blair! Great actual numbers and insight.

            Adding his dWAR to his wonderful oWAR numbers, Ramos is a great catcher by every defensive measure of any integrity.

          4. metsdaddy says:

            Yes, anything to discredit those stats which don’t agree with your predetermined opinion

      2. metsdaddy says:

        Ramos was a 1.4 WAR because of his terrible framing. He’s a bad catcher

  3. Oldbackstop says:

    Why does this article, word for word, appear without attribution here but lists the author John Sheridan on MetsMerized?

    From Baseball Refernce:

    12/18 Mets Merized: Three Free Agent Options For Mets’ Backup Catcher: According to reports, the New York Mets are currently looking…

    12/18 Mets Daddy: Three Backup Catching Options Mets Should Pursue: According to reports, the New York Mets are currently looking…

    I just don’t understand the precedent or personalities here, I guess. I have never seen content repeated before between the two blogs, and MD has been pretty strict on us quoting other writers.

    I just to be clear, I bust MD’s chops a lot, but I am not accusing him of plagiarism, I just don’t understand the relation here.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      MMO and I have an agreement where some of my content can be run on both sites

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