With a bevy of contract tender decisions coming within the last 24 hours, one of the most surprising appears to be the New York Mets tendering a contract to often injured catcher Travis d’Arnaud. Why exactly did they tender him a contract?
d’Arnaud, 29, has been an enigmatic piece in the Mets organization ever since coming over from the Toronto Blue Jays in the Noah Syndergaard trade in 2012. Since then, he’s managed to appear in just 397 major league games, an average of 66 games per season. The most he’s played in one season was 112, when he slashed a decent .244/.293/.443 with 16 homers in 2017.
In April, d’Arnaud underwent Tommy John surgery, which limited him to just four games in 2018. He could, according to multiple reports, start next season in the majors, if all goes well with his recovery, but this surgery, while arguably unavoidable for some catchers, doesn’t reflect well on his already injury-prone career.
Still, when healthy, he’s been pretty solid at the plate, boasting a career .245 average and notching three seasons with 10+ home runs and 40+ RBI. In addition, he’s racked up 65 career doubles and five career triples.
Despite this, it’s nearly impossible to talk about d’Arnaud without addressing the injury troubles that are seemingly endless in his young career. He just hasn’t been able to stay off the DL, plain and simple. So, why did the Mets tender him a contract?
First, the native of Long Beach, California is only slated to make roughly $3.7 million in arbitration, according to the estimations from MLB Trade Rumors. While it’s not exactly a bargain, his contract is by no means outrageous. At that price, he could already be worth it.
It’s also worth noting that while the Mets appear to be in a bit of an odd spot at the moment, with trades flying about in a nonsensical fashion, they could use some stability at the catcher’s position, and a confidently healthy d’Arnaud could certainly provide that.
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Last season, the Mets had, including d’Arnaud, five players log innings at the catcher’s position, with Kevin Plawecki (72 games) and Devin Mesoraco (57) leading the pack. Mesoraco, who came to the Mets in a mid-season trade with the Reds, is currently a free-agent, while Plawecki, a younger player, is still proving himself.
With the other games going to Jose Lobaton (a free-agent this winter) and 24-year-old Tomas Nido (.167/.200/.238, 27 K, 84 ABs in 34 G), the Mets have a striking lack of depth behind the plate. If they are indeed going to stick with their core of young pitchers, it could be beneficial to them to have a steady body behind the plate.
Of course, the question still remains, why d’Arnaud? The catching market this offseason is full of serviceable, defensively capable backstops, Robinson Chirinos, Nick Hundley, Martin Maldonado and Jonathan Lucroy among them. With Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos likely taking up most of the spotlight in that market, the Mets could sneak in and grab one of the aforementioned second-tier catchers.
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It remains to be seen just how much d’Arnaud will be used in 2019. Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see the way the New York Mets handle the next season of baseball.