The last time the Mets had a proven, reputable, everyday catcher was 2007 and 2008, when Paul LoDuca, who hit .297 with 14 HR and 103 RBI in 243 games.
In the subsequent 11 years, the Mets have run through more than 25 catchers, including Brian Schneider, Omir Santos, Rod Barajas, Josh Thole, John Buck, Kevin Plawecki and Devin Mesoraco.
The most recent player to get consistent playing time is Travis d'Arnaud, who entered each of the past five seasons considered the team's starting catcher. However, during that time, despite hype, expectations and sporadic production, he missed roughly half of the team's games due to a variety injuries.
In between surgeries and trips to the DL, the Mets had 1,469 plate appearances to establish his authority, during which he hit only .245 with a .306 OBP, while performing beneath the league average when attempting to throw runners out stealing a base.
In his first meeting with the media after being hired as the team's new GM, Brodie Van Wagenen downplayed needing to upgrade at catcher. However, according to team sources, Van Wagenen's manager Mickey Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland encouraged him to bring in an established backstop to work with and guide the team's pitching staff, which everyone agrees is the backbone of the 25-man roster.
Van Wagenen had been eager to acquire J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins, the reports of which dominated most headlines the first two months of the offseason. However, in the end, Van Wagenen played the market perfectly, using the Marlins and Realmuto, while fanning interest in free-agent Yasmani Grandal, to get Wilson Ramos to agree to a two-year, $19 million deal.
According to numbers crunched by FanGraphs.com, Ramos is projected to add one additional win over what would have been expected of another year platooning Plawecki and d'Arnaud. My belief is that, if Ramos can play in 130 games and be in the dugout the other 32, his brain and experience will impact the overall staff in a way that he'll end up being worth more than just the one additional FanGraphs win he produces with his bat and glove.
The concern, of course, is that Ramos struggles to remain healthy, again pushing through a chronic hamstring issue and repeated knee pain. Along those lines, Ramos never expected to be a free agent this past winter. It was just two years ago that talk in baseball had him seeking a five- to seven-year contract extension with the Nationals. However, in the final weeks of that season, he tore his ACL and needed surgery. He then settled for a two-year, $12.5 million deal with the Rays, which is similar to the deal he signed two months ago with the Mets.
That said, if all goes as planned, Ramos will prove to be one Van Wagenen's more significant additions.
"I still believe championship teams are built on stability and strength up the middle, starting in center field, through the middle infield and ending at catcher," I wrote last September, when declaring that Ramos would be the best fit at catcher for the Mets this season. I feel the same today, more so in fact after hearing how he wanted and prepared to be on this team.
Ramos, who has spent 8 of his 12 seasons in the National League East, reportedly wanted to join the Mets because of his familiarity with the division, city and promise of the potential of their pitching staff.
"I like to work with those kind of rotations because I feel like I can help with my experience," Ramos said last summer after being dealt by Tampa to Philadelphia. "Every time I am behind the plate, I try to help my guys on the mound. I love when we put zeroes on the scoreboard. That is my priority."
In the days after Van Wagenen locked in Ramos, the catcher requested video and statistics from the team to bone up on each of his staff's pitchers.
"He is very prepared, and he was asking for that information," Callaway recently said, according to the NY Post. "He is going to fit in great. He commands respect.''
According to Callaway, as part of his sales pitch to the Mets, Ramos detailed all of the ways he helped Rays ace Blake Snell, who matured to have a breakout season in 2018, during which he won the AL Cy Young.
Ramos told me last month in St. Lucie that he hopes to have a similar impact on Steven Matz, who he says has a similar skillset and work ethic to Snell.
"I put in a lot of work this offseason to stay healthy so I be behind the plate as much as I can for these guys," he said. "I feel great, so I want to be back there and keep learning how deGrom attacks hitters, how to handle Matz, and work as much as I can with the young guys."
In addition, Callaway added that his ace, deGrom, also liked what he heard from Ramos when the two connected earlier this year to discuss their connection for the upcoming season.
Ramos noted to me that he's most intrigued by the staff's range in velocity and differing abilities to move the ball around the strike zone, which are two things he often encouraged when working with Snell.
"This group is very good and I'm excited to work and help them be better," he said.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!