On the same day in mid-April, news surfaced that Kevin Plawecki broke his hand and Travis d’Arnaud would need season-ending Tommy John surgery. Suddenly, what was considered a position of relative strength on the Mets’ roster became a weakness in very short order. The Mets saw far too many plate appearances from Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido before trading Matt Harvey for Devin Mesoraco in early May.
One could argue the trade has worked out quite well for both clubs. Harvey has a 3.79 ERA since joining the Reds, down from the 7.00 ERA he was sporting for the Mets in 2018. Meanwhile, Mesoraco has posted a 115 wRC+ since coming to Queens.
Above-average offensive production from the catching position is not the only thing Mesoraco has provided since joining the Mets. He has shown that he has a solid arm behind the plate, an asset desperately needed for a pitching staff vulnerable to the stolen base. And despite the fact that his framing skills leave something to be desired, the pitching staff seems to enjoy throwing to him. After learning he had been traded to the Mets, Mesoraco spent a lot of time studying film and taking notes on all of the Mets’ pitchers. His numbers aren’t going to jump off a page, but it’s hard to argue Mesoraco hasn’t exceeded expectations.
The most obvious factor behind Mesoraco’s success has been health. He’s having his best year since his All-Star campaign in 2014, on pace for a roughly 2 WAR season. It’s no coincidence that it’s also been his healthiest season since that year. He has already played in more games this season than he did all of last year. Of course, Mesoraco’s checkered injury history was the chief reason he was available for Matt Harvey in a reclamation project swap and it’s easy to be wary of a player with such a laundry list of past injuries.
However, Mesoraco has shown enough in the first half to warrant some thought of resigning him in the offseason. Travis d’Arnaud faces a somewhat murky future returning from Tommy John surgery and has rarely been healthy himself. d’Arnaud is making $3.5 million this season and is entering his third year of arbitration. It is worth considering whether the Mets would be better off non-tendering d’Arnaud and giving Mesoraco what would probably only amount to slightly more in average annual value on a two or three year deal, given the risk presented by his injury history.
Looking forward to the free agent market at the catching position this coming offseason, Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos are the obvious cream of the crop and would likely command much more than Mesoraco. But like Grandal and Ramos, Mesoraco is only 30 years old. Many of the other catchers available in free agency that have produced at a similar level to Mesoraco are at least four years his senior. If the Mets are not willing to pay a premium to solidify the catching position long term, Mesoraco represents a reasonably priced alternative and a hedge against the uncertainty surrounding d’Arnaud.
Overall, the Mets have posted an 87 wRC+ from the catching position on the season thus far, good for 13th in baseball. This includes 44 at-bats from Tomas Nido and 46 at-bats from Jose Lobaton. Both Mesoraco and Kevin Plawecki have been above average with the bat this season and could represent a solid tandem for multiple years to come, should the Mets choose to take a chance on Mesoraco.