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Mets want to retain Chris Bassitt, and what are they doing behind the plate?
Bassitt made 30 starts for the Mets in 2022, more than any other starter on the club
What’s Up with the Mets? 🍎
The Mets are still hopeful of retaining Chris Bassitt on a long-term deal, who’s market is heating up ahead of the Winter Meetings next week (ESPN)
The Mets are one of several teams to express interest in reliever Tommy Kahnle (Metsmerized)
Edwin Díaz is the winner of the Good Guy Award in 2022, awarded by the New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association
About the Mets catching situation… ✍🏻
The Mets need pitching. A lot of pitching. They need to improve their power. They need to become a better base running team. They have to find a way to retain or replace around 15 players who have become free agents.
I can’t remember an off-season like this one for the Mets. They’ve often dealt with a lot of holes to plug, but when have they had so many boxes to check coming off a successful season like this coupled with expectations which are only rising through the owner’s decree that he wants to win a championship within five years of taking control (that was two full seasons ago, by the way).
The amazing thing about it all is, there’s as good a chance as there isn’t the roster could look shockingly similar to that of their 2022 team. Brandon Nimmo could very well be retain, as could Jacob deGrom and Chris Bassitt. Three critical boxes could be checked merely through (expensive) retention.
But again, the roster could look different. Maybe they sign Carlos Rodón or Justin Verlander along with Kodai Senga for the rotation, shift Starling Marte back to center (ill-advised from my seat, although I’ll gladly take the loss on opposing their decision to make Nimmo their full-time centerfielder previously) and they sign a corner outfielder.
Maybe there’s some combination of all of this to consider as well. And more.
But one of the things I’ve been thinking about this week is how they’re going to address their catching situation in 2023.
Now, this position was a giant problem for the Mets in 2022. We talked a lot about it here numerous times. Here’s a look at what the five players the Mets slotted into the catchers position did for them at the plate last season:
The seven home runs were tied for last in the majors. The .306 slugging percentage was the sixth-worst, the .262 on-base percentage the fourth worst. The group produced a 66 wRC+ (league average is 100).
One thing I’m all but certain about is if any help is coming from the outside, it will be depth moves and much-needed alternatives at Triple-A Syracuse.
Yes, the primary major league pieces are here for the Mets. How they decide to peel the onion is a completely different conversation.
The first thing the Mets need to decide is how Francisco Álvarez fits into this equation. He is considered baseball’s best prospect by MLB Pipeline, and he got his cup of coffee late in 2022 and seemingly out of desperation by the Mets to find some kind of additional power against left-handed pitching in particular. Recall - he was called up in that pivotal series against the Braves and was really injected into tough spots late in games, being asked to deliver in season-defining moments he really wasn’t ready for. Even so, his power potential was put on display against the Nationals at Citi Field in the season’s final regular season series when he hit a mammoth home run for his first career blast.
But is the fresh 21-year-old ripe enough to take on the everyday duties behind the plate? Is he going to be the one right now calling games for Max Scherzer and perhaps one of Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander or Carlos Rodón?
Probably not, and nor should he. This isn’t something he’s ready to do. Yet, anyway.
Make no mistake - Álvarez is going to be a regular player. He has to be, otherwise he has to go play everyday at Triple-A Syracuse. He profiles right now as a primary option as their designated hitter against left-handed pitching, and that could very well evolve into a situation where he is seeing both sides as well. But he also either has to catch or they have to find another place for him, the latter being more of a challenge right now.
Then there’s the rest of the equation. Tomás Nido is the easiest part to solve in an ideal world. He is one of the game’s best backup catcher with elite skills behind the plate. His bat is a “less-is-more” quantity which is why he is best suited in a backup role.
But a backup catcher shouldn’t be starting more than 1-2 games a week. Yet Nido got 98 starts in 2022 and while he finished with a decent-enough .239/.276/.324 line, his .763 OPS over his final 29 games was needed to get him there.
Which leads us to the giant elephant in the room: James McCann.
McCann’s stay in New York over the last couple of years has been sub-optimal, to say the least. He has produced a .610 OPS in 182 games since he joined the Mets before the 2021 season after he signed a four-year, $40 million contract with the club. He dealt with a lot of injuries in 2022 between a broken finger and some soft tissue problems, limiting him to just 61 games and forcing the Mets to turn to Nido as their regular catcher for the majority of the season.
So, what are the Mets going to do here? Its safe to say strictly from an offensive perspective, McCann is more like the player who produced a .653 OPS from 2014-2018 than he is the one who produced an .808 OPS between 2019-2020. Maybe the shift ban helps him, but in the end there hasn’t been a lot of hard contact off his bat since he got here.
If the Mets cut bait, they’ll owe McCann $24.25 million for 2023 and 2024. That’s all well and good but remember they’re already paying Robinson Canó around $20 million to not play for them in 2023. Yeah, it may not matter for this owner but even he has to be bothered by those empty dollars.
But it still might be the best baseball move for them. It clears the way for Álvarez to get necessary playing time and not spend his reps on an ineffective player instead. It would even out Nido’s situation as well and could also allow the Mets to enter the free agent or trade markets for real improvements at the position either next summer and/or a year from now.
On the other hand, if the Mets can build enough offense elsewhere in the lineup, they can afford to have a defense-first situation behind the plate, which would in-turn strengthen their pitching staff and ability at run prevention.
This is just one of the many scenarios Billy Eppler is considering on the whiteboard in his office in Citi Field right now. It’s not something he needs to address at the Winter Meetings next week, but certainly an equation he might need to solve depending on what other moves come before it.
Hot Stove 🔥
The Yankees have offered Aaron Judge an eight-year, $300 million contract - his decision on where he signs could come in the next week (ESPN)
The Phillies have made signing SS Trea Turner a top priority (MLB Network)
The Guardians have pursued a trade with the A’s for C Sean Murphy (MLB Network)
The Padres and Cubs are now among the teams interested in signing Bogaerts (ESPN)
The Astros plan to meet with free agent catcher Wilson Contreras (Athletic)