The Mets have checked the box for a backup catcher with a name. But an upgrade is needed, and Russell Martin is a perfect fit on and off the field…
Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen has the name Tomas Nido listed as the team’s backup catcher for Wilson Ramos. However, for a team that has achievable odds (3:1) to win the National East Title, an upgrade is warranted.
Mets Have To Know Nido Is Not The Answer
Nido is a home-grown product of the Mets who was drafted in the 8th round of the 2012 MLB June Amateur Draft. As a backup, he’s been limited to 230 at-bats during his three seasons with the big club.
The results have not been good. Nido’s batting average falls under the Mendoza Line at .187, and he has managed only nine extra-base hits.
Translated, this means there is only a 4% chance Nido will get a hit other than a single ever time he steps to the plate.
Nido is a pedestrian fielding catcher. He doesn’t make errors (7) or allow passed balls (3), but he lags far behind the major league average in throwing runners out trying to steal.
In 2019, he caught only three of thirty-seven runners, which is 8% versus 26% for the league.
The good thing about Nido, and we can be pretty sure the Mets have noticed, is that he’s cheap. Under full team control until 2022, Nido doesn’t free-agency status until 2025.
Wilson Ramos: Shaky At Best
Wilson Ramos will play the 2020 season at age 32. As a catcher, he has logged 7,300 innings over 850 games. There’s a good chance the Mets are rolling the dice if they expect Ramos to catch 140 games for them, as he did last season.
Of interest to the Mets should also be the slide Ramos had in September when his batting average dived to .221 with only one home run and seven driven home.
Mets: Seek And Ye Shall Find
Perusing the remaining catchers on the free-agent list for 2020, it’s no surprise nearly all of the good ones are taken. But there are a couple of sleepers in there the Mets should be taking a look at as replacements for Nido.
Both are proven veterans who are winding down their careers, which by definition, is what a contending team wants as a backup catcher.
The youngest of the two at 33 is Matt Wieters. He is remembered most as a four-time All-Star when he played for the Baltimore Orioles.
Time is catching up with him, and his last three seasons have been spent in the NL with the Nationals and Cardinals.
His attributes are two-fold. One, he is a left-handed batter in a Mets lineup that is primarily right-handed. Wieters can also be looked at as a pinch-hitter with occasional pop.
Wieters’s main attribute, though, remains his abilities behind the plate. His lifetime fielding percentage is .993, with a 32% average in catching runners who are stealing rests above the league of 27%. Last season, Wieters did even better than usual, hitting 42% in shutting down a steal.
Mets: Door Number Two Is Better
A better choice is Russell Martin, who, even at 37, offers the Mets the intangibles and leadership their young team can utilize during a grueling pennant chase.
As you might expect, Martin has been around the block a few times and even played two years with the Mets cross-town rival Yankees, making the All-Star team in 2011.
Like Wieters and most catchers his age, the numbers have declined.
But his presence in the clubhouse has not. Nor has Martin’s experience in handling and guiding a pitching staff.
Ideally suited for someone like Noah Syndergaard, who, regardless of what anyone says, still prefers to pitch to anyone not named Ramos, Martin offers a resolution to a problem the Mets still own but refuse to acknowledge.
In any case, either Wieters or Martin has more to offer the Mets than Tomas Nido.
This Can’t Be About Money – Can It?
Money, you say? According to Spotrac, after everything is said and done with the signed contracts that avoid arbitration, the Mets have around $12 million to play with before reaching this year’s luxury tax threshold of a $208 million payroll.
Neither player will come close to absorbing anywhere near that much salary, and Martin will cost the Mets more than Wieters.
But as so often is the case with the Mets, the choice is between a kid who can’t hit or throw a lick but comes for the major league minimum – and a proven veteran who can hit and catch at least as well as Nido – and most likely better – if only for a few dollars more.
At the very least, the Mets and Van Wagenen should not be sitting still thinking they have the answer for their backup catcher for 2020 in Tomas Nido…