With the Mets still subject to the crushing Iron Curtain that is the Wilpons’ financial limitations, they will likely need to make at least one major acquisition this offseason via trade. This shouldn't be too difficult for them considering the amount of depth they've accumulated in key areas. One asset that they may consider including in a deal is catching prospect Kevin Plawecki, who, with the emergence of Travis d’Arnaud, is considered expendable by some. Despite the catching depth that the Mets have stockpiled, they should avoid including Plawecki in any deal if possible.
In theory, it makes sense for the Mets to build a package around Plawecki. He is young, highly regarded, and close to major league ready. He has significant value on the market, evidenced by Baseball America rating him as the No. 40 overall prospect in baseball in their midseason rankings. As long as d’Arnaud is healthy and producing, Plawecki won’t have the chance to start in Flushing.
Despite this, Plawecki is too valuable an asset for the Mets to part with unless he is the last piece holding up a major trade. With both Plawecki and d’Arnaud on the roster, the Mets would have the ability to put together a two-headed offensive force behind the plate that would give them an edge over the rest of the league.
With both d’Arnaud and Plawecki on the roster, the Mets would be able to put an offensive-oriented and starting-caliber catcher on the field every single day as long as both are healthy, and even if one did go down with an injury, they would still have the other available to start.
Considering almost every team in baseball has to use an inferior player behind the plate for a significant number of games in a season, having an offensive force in the lineup at a usually weak position would give the Mets a huge advantage. Since the Mets don’t have the funds to acquire every player they want, they need to find advantages any way they can. Having above-average catching for 162 games is a way they can do that.
Catcher is also a position where it is easier to be a bench player as a young prospect in need of at-bats. Unlike most positions on the field where the expectation is to play six to seven days a week, catchers routinely get days off because of the wear and tear they go through over the course of a season. It is usually fair to expect a starting catcher to play 120 games in a season, leaving a large number of games to be handled by what is usually a replacement-level player—Anthony Recker, for example.
If the Mets had both d’Arnaud and Plawecki on the roster, they could rest d’Arnaud on a more regular basis because they wouldn’t have to worry about losing his offense as much. As a result, both d’Arnaud and Plawecki would be well rested when playing and theoretically put up even better numbers on a day-to-day basis. In this situation, the Mets could also possibly have a third catcher on the roster, which would then give the Mets a starting-caliber bat off the bench in every game they played.
While the idea of having a two-headed offensive force behind the plate is nice, an equally large reason the Mets should hold onto Plawecki if they can is because of the harsh nature of being a catcher. Other than pitchers, catchers go down with injuries more often than any other position on the field.
This is especially important for the Mets because of d’Arnaud’s shaky injury history. He has suffered a number of concussions as well as serious back and leg injuries. In Keith Law’s preseason prospect rankings, he put d’Arnaud at 36 but said, "d’Arnaud would be a top-10 prospect if he could stay on the field." He has avoided a major injury this season, but because of his injury history and the tendency for catchers to get hurt, having Plawecki available is tremendous insurance the Mets would be wise to hold on to.
There is also the possibility of Plawecki building his value as a part-time player in the big leagues and getting the Mets an even greater return during the season or the following offseason. If d’Arnaud breaks out next season and Plawecki performs in a bench role, with Plawecki’s prospect pedigree as well as the evidence he can hit big league pitching, a team desperate for a major league catcher could be wooed into giving up valuable assets for him.
There is also the chance that Plawecki ends up being a better major leaguer than d’Arnaud. D’Arnaud has shown signs of being an above-average catcher after being recalled to the big leagues, exhibiting plus power and an ability to make hard contact on a regular basis. However, he is still inconsistent in many areas, including pitch blocking and streakiness at the plate. While the Mets and their fans should be optimistic about d’Arnaud following his apparent resurgence, he is still not a sure thing. Plawecki could potentially become a better major league player because of his consistency and receiving ability, so dealing him while d’Arnaud could still possibly flame out would be very risky.
Using both Plawecki and d’Arnaud in the majors would be unorthodox. Both are offensive-oriented catchers, and usually teams like to have a defensive-oriented backup at the position. However, while both are stronger on offense, they bring very different approaches with the bat; d’Arnaud is streakier and less consistent but has big power while Plawecki is a contact machine. Together they would bring a nice contrast on a daily basis, and give the Mets an edge over the rest of the league that they so desperately need.