When the Mets re-signed Rene Rivera to a minor league deal this January, it seemed like both a depth move and, perhaps, an olive branch to Noah Syndergaard, who really enjoys throwing to Rivera. In between then and now the entire world has changed, but Rivera’s role has changed in two important ways. Syndergaard’s Tommy John surgery means that Rivera won’t be Thor’s personal catcher for 2020 but, in a ‘could only happen in 2020’ move, Rivera will likely have more job security this season than he could have possibly predicted.
One of the new roster rules for the shortened 2020 season is that the team will travel with a thee-player taxi squad at all times, with one of those three players required to be a catcher. That catcher may also act as a bullpen catcher when the team is at home and may work out with the team, regardless of whether they are home or on the road.
With WIlson Ramos clearly the Mets’ main catcher, it seemed like the role of backup was going to go to either Rivera or Tomás Nido. Both present their own challenges: Rivera, though not the defensive whiz he once was, is also not the offensive black hole that Nido appears to be. Lukas Vlahos articulated the choice well in his Rivera season preview from March, and argued for taking Nido over Rivera for defensive reasons.
Well, now the Mets may be able to have their cake and eat it, too. It appears that, since he is out of options, Nido will likely be the ‘official’ backup for the Mets, with Rivera being the taxi squad catcher. This is not necessarily a plum position, as the only financial benefit to being the taxi squad catcher versus simply being on the 60-man player list, is the $108.50 per day per diem the player will gain from traveling with the team. And while $3,000 or so is nothing to sneeze at, in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t a huge financial boon.
But Rivera was always likely to get some playing time at some point this season, and if he’s on the taxi squad, it seems even more likely that he’ll see some playing time in the majors this season. Rivera was not a sexy signing, or even one that inspired much discussion. There will always be a need for players like Rivera and, while that may not grab headlines, it is an important job.