Coming off a breakout season, Travis d'Arnaud was the presumptive starter going into 2016, with Kevin Plawecki as his backup. Unfortunately, d'Arnaud missed more than half the season due to injury and struggled at the plate in his limited appearances, putting up a .629 OPS, almost 200 points below his 2015 mark.
At the same time, Plawecki's offense was worse, as he found himself back in the minors. Rene Rivera, on a minor league deal, proved to be a serviceable alternative, though his batting lingered well behind his strong defense.
The Mets absolutely need better production at this position next year if they plan to contend for the postseason...
Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud attempts to throw out a runner stealing second base (USA Today Images)
Rivera is a solid backup, but it's unlikely the Mets with have the lineup depth to get away with his bat on a regular basis. Catchers who can hit are a rare breed, so finding one on the trade market is challenging (Lucroy being the obvious exception to the rule) and so any external upgrades will have to come from the free agent market.
Of the current crop, the most consistent has been Matt Wieters, but his production has been on the decline since 2014 and he will be looking for a long-term deal that carries a lot of risk.
Wilson Ramos is just 29 and had an outstanding year at the plate, but there are concerns regarding his recovery from surgery and he has seen a lot of ups and downs in his performance over the years. Nick Hundley, Kurt Suzuki, and Alex Avila are all catchers who have enjoyed some success, but all are on the wrong side of 30, with histories of inconsistency.
The least exciting scenario is probably the one with the highest potential payoff and also the highest risk. It's also the one the Mets are rumored to be leaning towards: staying in house and hoping one of their two former top-prospects in d'Arnaud and Plawecki can have a breakthrough, with Rivera on hand in case they don't.
Mets catchers Travis d'Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki (USA Today Images)
The benefit of this approach is that they all know and work well with the Mets young staff and are excellent at framing the low strikes that make their pitching so effective. It also frees up budget to bring back Cespedes and/or Walker.
But the risk is significant. D'Arnaud has hit in the majors, but has never stayed healthy. Plawecki has stayed healthy, but has never hit in the majors. One of those things needs to change or else the Mets may find themselves paying top dollar at the deadline to make up the difference. On the other hand, the value in a home-grown, cost-controlled catcher is huge and may justify the risk in giving these young men one more shot.