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Mets sign catcher Bruce Maxwell to minor league deal

The former Athletics backstop provides depth behind the dish.

Baltimore Orioles v Oakland Athletics

The Mets have signed former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell to a minor league deal, per Tim Healey of Newsday. He’ll need to pass a physical as well as clear COVID-19 testing before being added to the Mets’ 60-player pool. If cleared, the 29-year-old would provide an alternative to Tomás Nido and René Rivera as the backup/taxi squad backstop. Maxwell could also save New York from having to lean on their even less proven prospects like Ali Sánchez and Patrick Mazeika at the big league level.

Maxwell spent his entire affiliated career to this point in the Oakland Athletics organization. He was the 62nd overall pick in the 2012 draft out of Division III Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama. His big league debut came in 2016, where he hit a respectable .283/.337/.402 with a single home run and a 102 wRC+ in 101 plate appearances. While scouts noted he improved behind the dish as he progressed through the minors, his glove work hews average or below by most metrics, though his caught stealing rate was average or better in 2017 and 2018. The A’s released Maxwell after the 2018 season, in which he struggled mightily at the plate in both Triple-A and the bigs, and his career line is a fairly pedestrian .240/.314/.347, with an 83 wRC+ in 412 plate appearances in 127 games.

In 2017, Maxwell became the first player in MLB to kneel during the league’s traditional pregame playing of the United States national anthem to protest and draw attention to racial discrimination and police violence. He explained his thought process in depth at the time, and the Athletics and MLB released statements supporting their players’ rights to express their opinions.

Maxwell, born in Wiesbaden, Germany during his father’s military service, spoke specifically about how his action did not disrespect the military, but until this season Maxwell remained the only player to take a knee during the anthem in MLB. Maxwell spoke to Howard Bryant of ESPN earlier this month about his experiences, challenges, and immense frustrations as he saw several players and coaches finally follow his lead, and the league more thoroughly endorse his protest to some degree. Notably, at the time, Maxwell said he didn’t feel interested in returning to MLB. The article does note Mets VP and assistant general manager of scouting and player development, Allard Baird, specifically went to see Maxwell after 2018, though his reaction was hardly glowing.

[Dave] Stewart went to his friend, longtime talent evaluator Allard Baird, to ask him to take a look. Baird told Stewart that he had gone to Triple-A Nashville to look at Maxwell as a possible fit for the Mets. Stewart later discovered that Baird wasn’t alone. The A’s never sought a trade for Maxwell, but 14 teams had gone to see him in Nashville. The consensus was what Baird reported back to Stewart: Maxwell looked like “he didn’t give a s---.” Stewart told Maxwell the word on him. “You know what? I didn’t,” Maxwell recalls. “Emotionally, I felt done.”

A reinvigorated Maxwell, however, looked far better in 2019. In the roughly AAA-equivalent Mexican Leagues, Maxwell bounced back at the plate, with a .325/.407/.559 line in 487 PA as the main backstop for the Acereros de Monclova. Among teammates like former big leaguers Erick Aybar, Chris Carter, Eric Young Jr., Fernando Salas, and Al Alburquerque, Maxwell played himself into big league interest once more. Maxwell is quite likely the Mets’ second best backstop, and he provides a degree of stability with better offensive potential than either Rivera or Nido if he can match his career averages.