The New York Mets Need A Catcher Fast


The New York Mets’ 2018 season might well be defined by two early-season incidents that have flipped their fortunes. Two injuries in the same week, to their catching tandem of Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki, have put the Mets in trouble after a 7-16 stretch.

In spring training, the rapport the New York’s vaunted pitching staff had with their catchers calling games was outstanding. Then Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, and Zack Wheeler were all off to good starts. Thor looked unhittable and deGrom was as strong and confident as he has been in years.

The Mets were the talk of Major League Baseball early on. They set a team record for best start to the season at 11-1. Everything was rolling. The bullpen was just lights out. d’Arnaud and Plawecki were very comfortable with the staff and with the year-long platoon. They called great games from start to finish.

Unfortunately, the good season-ing was shortlived.

First, d’Arnaud mysteriously had an injury following a 12-inning 6-5 win in Washington on April 8. The result - a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. And the three words no one wants to hear - Tommy John surgery. And his Mets’ career is likely over.

Is Travis d'Arnaud's Met career over? (photo credit: Corey Mansfield)
Then, Plawecki is hit in the hand a few days later, on April 12. Plawecki stayed in the game after the incident but was later removed. An x-ray discovered a fracture in his left hand and with it, a month-long recovery. A nice fill-in, but Plawecki isn’t an every-day catcher right now.

So with both of the Mets’ catching options sidelined, who could they turn to? Journeyman Jose Lobaton and Double-A rookie Tomas Nido. And the results have been disgusting.

The bullpen, which had been the cornerstone of the Mets’ impressive start, began to leak night in and night out. Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Jerry Blevins and Jeurys Familia were uncharacteristically bad. Great starts were wasted by a relief core that couldn’t get an out when it matters. Team ERA now 4.24 and rising. And the clutch hits, New York seemed to have so often, were gone. And, in a New York minute, Matt Harvey goes from marginal starter to bullpen failure to Cincinnati Red.

It seemed Kevin Plawecki had turned the corner offensively for the Mets before his injury (photo credit: Corey Mansfield)
From 11-1 to 18-17, the Amazins are on the verge of a major collapse. Yet again.

There can be much blame cast on Mickey Callaway for rookie manager mistakes. (How can a major league team bat out of order?) Or the inconsistency of star players? Did I mention how bad Jason Vargas has been?

But let’s go back to the catching situation, because that’s what will truly make-or-break the Mets.

Is Mesoraco the answer? 
With no consistent catcher options, who can this young pitching staff lean on? Who will provide calm and understand the incredible arsenal of pitches each player has? It was d’Arnaud and Plawecki that stepped up and provided just what was needed. The Mets believed that d’Arnaud could stay healthy and finally play a full season. They opted to keep him instead of signing a big name in free agency. The gamble didn’t pay off.

So where do the Mets turn? GM Sandy Alderson traded Harvey for oft-injured Devin Mesoraco. The new Mets catcher had some glimpses of stardom with the Reds, but not enough to put your trust in for 130 games. He will be a stop-gap until Plawecki is healthy. It will take time for those two catchers to build any consistency with the staff.

The Mets need to make an organizational changing move. A go-get-the-next-face-of-the-franchise type of move. This team has many tremendous assets and there has to be a top catcher, via trade, that could rise to the occasion. Those young pitchers, many in the prime of their careers, deserve it.

Only time will tell.

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