The Mets’ catching situation was bleak in 2020, and to address this, the Mets declined Wilson Ramos’s option for 2021. Even since before Steve Cohen’s bid to buy the Mets was official, the name J.T. Realmuto was nearly synonymous with the Mets’ offseason plans. With the Mets linked to James McCann heavily, it appears likely that one of the two big free agent catchers winds up in Queens next season.
Whether or not the Mets can pull one of those moves off, their backup catcher situation is not ideal, either. Neither Tomas Nido nor Ali Sanchez is exactly a lock for the position, and there may be better options out there which will come relatively cheap.
Two of the best options are the recently non-tendered Tony Wolters and Curt Casali. While neither is likely to have a break out season for the Mets, both bring more refined skills than Nido or Sanchez.
Casali seems like a team-specific non-tender, as the Reds have Tucker Barnhart under contract, as well as a catching prospect, Tyler Stephenson, waiting in the wings. Casali entering his age-32 season, but is still cheap and is likely the most complete player of any of the potential backups the Mets may bring in of the names mentioned here.
An above average pitch framer with an unimpressive arm, Casali has averaged a 95 OPS+ over his career, but notched a 126 and a 115 in 2020 and 2018, respectively. His 88 OPS+ in 2019 isn’t terrible for a backup catcher either, especially as that year also saw him reach his career high in appearances.
Wolters is known for his control of the running game and his good relationship with Rockies pitchers, but has been a relatively light hitter. His stat lines are bizarre at times, such as in 2018 where he batted .170/.292/.286, but hit four triples (!).
The one area where Wolters shines above Casali is in his control of the running game. Wolters, over his career, has averaged a 31% caught stealing percentage, compared to Casali’s 27%. Casali actually had a better 2020 in that regard, but small sample size likely figures into that.
Both of these catchers have played other positions in the majors, with Wolters logging innings at second base, third base, and left field and Casali playing a little first base. The Mets are not really in need of more folks playing out of position, but I suppose it is nice to have some options.
Speaking of options, Tomas Nido is out of them, so if the Mets are going to keep him, it’ll have to be in Queens, and Nido is neither the defender nor offensive threat that either Casali or Wolters is, though he is younger and cheaper than either of them will be. It is hard to break the habit of just presuming the Mets will do the cheapest thing possible.
Of course, Nido is neither cheaper nor younger than Ali Sanchez, who also has options left. Sanchez is very much still a prospect, and could use a little more time to develop in the minors. It does not appear that Nido, Casali, or Wolters will be a long term solution in Queens, but if the Mets can land one of the two big free agent catchers, they won’t have to be. But if they do, Casali seems like a cost-effective option to have a reasonably well-rounded backup catcher, something the Mets have not had in a long, long time.