While we’ve already looked at potential internal options for a backup catcher to Wilson Ramos, the Mets, once they’ve taken a look at what those internal options actually are, may opt instead to look at the free agent market. In particular, this year’s rash of non-tenders across the league present some interesting opportunities for the Mets to consider, including an old friend…
Better the devil you know, right? Kevin Plawecki is a familiar face to Mets fans (and to Mets pitchers), having spent the entirety of his profession career through 2018 with the organization. Drafted in 2012, he spent much of his time in Queens backing up Travis d’Arnaud and while his defense was generally solid, the bat was somewhat less so, though his final two seasons with the Mets offered some promise.
Since being traded to Cleveland for Walker Lockett, that promise has not come to pass, though, and Plawecki hit just .222/.287/.342 across 174 plate appearances. The Indians opted not to tender him a contract, leaving him a free agent. Still just 28 years old and coming off a strong defensive season, he offers a higher ceiling than most backups on the market and the price tag would likely be easily swallowed, even by a team trying to stay below the luxury tax.
Another victim of the non-tender, 31 year old Josh Phegley has split his career between the White Sox and the Athletics, where he played over 100 games for the first time. In light of that, as well as a .239/.282/.411 line, Phegley may be looking to pick up a starting role somewhere. But the extended time exposed some of his defensive warts and the most likely scenario finds him in a backup role.
While the relatively strong bat should be appealing to the Mets, who’ve gotten very little of that from their catchers in recent years, the mediocre glove is a harder sell, as it doesn’t complement Ramos particularly well. Still worth checking in on though, as are similar bat-forward backups such as Kevan Smith and Elias Diaz.
For several years one of the most underrated catchers in the game, 36 year old Russell Martin is still going strong and may very well find himself in a starting role. Though strong on both sides of the plate, he’s been slowly but surely declining both in performance and playing time and if the Mets want to get as close to “making a splash” as you really can when talking about a backup catcher, Martin is probably the best way to do that.
Martin will probably command more salary than the rest of the names in this post combined, but he offers a legitimate starting option should Ramos lose significant time to injury, he brings the defense Ramos does not, and he has some experience at other positions that could bring added flexibility. The Mets haven’t been known to go out and get the ideal player for a supporting role regardless of cost, but this would be an appropriate time to start.