The Mets hired Glenn Sherlock to be their third base coach in November, hoping his expertise as a catching instructor would help Travis d'Arnaud behind the plate. And, the organization's theory continued, if d'Arnaud's defense improved, it would lift a burden and clear his head for better production at the plate.
Instead, d'Arnaud has thrown out a career-low 15.4 percent of would-be base stealers this season (4 of 26) -- even if the pitching staff shares in that responsibility. And his batting average currently sits at .226 with a .288 OBP, nine home runs and 26 RBI.
As a result, the 28-year-old d'Arnaud's tenure with the Mets very much is at a crossroads. And Sandy Alderson will have to determine next winter whether it is time to move on from a signature piece acquired with Noah Syndergaard from the Blue Jays in the trade for R.A. Dickey in December 2012.
Mets C Travis d'Arnaud watches a bullpen session with coach Glenn Sherlock (Cerrone, MetsBlog).
D'Arnaud is not eligible for free agency until after the 2019 season, though he will have four-plus years of major league service after this season. At the same time, Rene Rivera is a free agent after this year. So it may be time next winter to bring in a bona fide No. 1 catcher and have d'Arnaud recede to a backup role rather than simply staying the course or re-signing Rivera.
Of course, the grass may not be greener on the other side...
The list of looming free-agent catchers should include Alex Avila, Jonathan Lucroy and Chris Iannetta, with not much after that. Matt Wieters also can opt out of his contract with the Nationals.
Yet, given all the looming free agents that will force the Mets to focus on other positions, would Alderson really throw money at the catching position next winter when he has d'Arnaud under control? Because, after d'Arnaud, right now there is no heir apparent as a No. 1 catcher for Opening Day 2018 already in the system...
Mar 12, 2017; Wilk (85) gets the ball from Nido (70) at Joker Marchant Stadium. USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Plawecki has a .206 career average at the major league level and is 3-for-24 with the Mets this season. Fellow Las Vegas catcher Xorge Carrillo is hitting a modest .259 with five home runs and 23 RBI in 143 at-bats in the Pacific Coast League. He also has thrown out only six of 39 base stealers -- an equivalent rate to d'Arnaud's percentage with the Mets.
Meanwhile, the Mets do have Tomas Nido hitting .254 with five home runs and 33 RBI in 213 at-bats in Double-A, where he has thrown out 38.7 percent of would-be base stealers (12 of 31). Nido was also recently selected to represent the Mets in the MLB Futures Game in Miami.
Similarly, St. Lucie's Patrick Mazeika is hitting .292 with seven home runs and 43 RBI in 243 at-bats and could find himself at Binghamton later this summer. Also, the Mets signed Venezuelan catcher Ali Sanchez for $690,000 in July 2013. Sanchez, now 20, is hitting .236 with one home run and 13 RBI in 157 at-bats with low-A Columbia, while throwing out 50 percent of would-be base stealers (20 of 40). However, before being considered a replacement for d'Arnaud, all three young catchers will need more experience and development in the minor leagues.
For now, the Mets need to hope d'Arnaud's production against the Marlins this week continues during the second half. If not, the Mets may finally need to switch directions during the offseason.
Adam Rubin (Facebook | Twitter | Contact) has covered the Mets since 2002. He previously worked for the Daily News and ESPN. He also serves as assistant athletic director for strategic communications at NYIT. He is a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the University of Pennsylvania.