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The Mets dropped the ball with their backup catcher situation

Holding on to Travis d’Arnaud only to DFA him in April was a mistake.

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New York Mets v Miami Marlins Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

One day after Travis d’Arnaud had a terrible day behind the plate, the Mets announced they had designated him for assignment. This move effectively ends the catcher’s time in New York and muddies the entire catching situation.

d’Arnaud was once considered the prized piece in the R.A. Dickey trade, but the concern was always his health. That unfortunately came to pass, as he missed plenty of time with injuries and had Tommy John surgery early last season.

When Brodie Van Wagenen was hired this offseason, he faced thin catching depth. His options were d’Arnaud, returning from his surgery, and Kevin Plawecki and Tomas Nido neither of whom had been impressive at the major league level.

Van Wagenen was off to a good start when he at least acknowledged these options were not ideal. The Mets were in discussions with Yasmani Grandal, though he turned down what the Mets were offering, and were rumored to be in on J.T. Realmuto before walking away when the asking price from the Marlins was too high. So he turned instead to Wilson Ramos and signed him to a two-year deal.

The Ramos signing was fine, but all his other moves regarding that position are head scratchers. As one of his first moves as GM, Van Wagenen tendered Travis d’Arnaud a contract despite the surgery and despite the fact he might not be ready for Opening Day. The contract ended up being worth $3.52 million. For comparison, Gio Gonzalez just signed with the Brewers for $2 million.

Tendering a contract to d’Arnaud is obviously a mistake now, but even without the gift of hindsight the warning signs were there. As Tim Britton recently wrote, it can take up to two years for catchers to regain their form when recovering from Tommy John.

After tending d’Arnaud a contract, the Mets traded Kevin Plawecki to the Indians for pitcher Walker Lockett and infielder Sam Haggerty. Plawecki didn’t have great career numbers as hitter, but with league-average-ish performance as a hitter in 2017 and 2018, he was a perfectly serviceable backup and is at least healthy enough to man the position. Lockett was seemingly brought in as pitching depth, but he is currently sidelined with elbow soreness and has no timetable for a return.

So with no potential backup for Opening Day, the Mets signed Devin Mesoraco, who worked well with Jacob deGrom last season. After the Mets reneged on a handshake promise that he would make the team, Mesoraco chose to retire rather than head to the minors. This decision came after the Mets refused to grant him a release from the team. After the Mesoraco mess went down, the Mets revealed that d’Arnaud would indeed not be ready for Opening Day after all, and Nido made the team out of spring.

With the depth once again thin, after Rene Rivera was released by the Giants—and in an almost inevitable move—the Mets brought him back. Rivera is not on the 40-man roster, however, so now Nido is once again the one who got the call after the Mets made the decision to DFA d’Arnaud. Nido came up with a big hit against the Brewers, but for his career has hit just .178/.206/.257 in 107 plate appearances. He has only one home run in his career but is solid defensively behind the plate.

Marc Carig perhaps summed up this situation best with a simple tweet after the news broke about d’Arnaud.

Keeping d’Arnaud and passing on Kevin Plawecki and Devin Mesoraco hurt the Mets, and d’Arnaud’s salary wound up being money they could have used elsewhere.