With starter Travis d'Arnaud and backup Kevin Plawecki both on the disabled list, the Mets are being forced to dig deep for a new catcher.
The New York Mets are the talk of baseball, and for once, it's for the right reasons. Owners of the game's best record at 10–1, the Mets are in first place in the NL East, are on an eight-game winning streak, and are coming off a six-game road trip in which they took three straight from the division favorite Nationals in Washington. Most importantly, though, is that New York's roster, which has been a veritable MASH unit over the last two years, has been hale and healthy—that is, up until a couple of days ago.
Back on Wednesday, as the Mets got set to face the Marlins in Miami, the team got the bad news that starting catcher Travis d'Arnaud would be out indefinitely after suffering a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The injury—which usually afflicts pitchers and is a precursor to Tommy John surgery—could cost d'Arnaud the season if he decides to go under the knife and at the very least will keep him out of action for a long stretch of time.
Injuries are why starters have backups, though, so with d'Arnaud down, the Mets turned to Kevin Plawecki, the team's 27-year-old reserve backstop, who was more or less serviceable both behind and at the plate last season when called upon. He wouldn't be an ideal solution, but the Mets probably figured they could do a lot worse. But only hours after New York learned that d'Arnaud would be out for a while, this happened:
In the span of 24 hours, the Mets lost both their starting and backup catchers for at least the next two or three weeks, leaving them suddenly and perilously thin at one of the game's more important positions—and without any real good replacement, either. The only other catcher the Mets had on their 40-man roster at the time was 24-year-old Tomas Nido, a former eighth-round draft pick who has been unexceptional at best in his seven years in the minor leagues (as well as a five-game stint in the majors last season). Beyond Nido, the Mets have brought up veteran backup Jose Lobaton, who was signed to a minor league deal back in December and is more or less a warm body with a glove attached. In eight years in the big leagues spent mostly with the Rays and Nationals, Lobaton has a career .218/.295/.324 line, marking him more as the spiritual successor to Kevin Cash than anything else.
Beggars can't be choosers, though, so for the time being, the Mets will have to ride with Lobaton and Nido and hope that Plawecki heals quickly. If d'Arnaud does undergo surgery, though, it may be worth the team exploring an outside option to having to start one of Plawecki or Lobaton all season long. And as it happens, there's a team within their own division with an All-Star caliber catcher who wants out of his messy situation: J.T. Realmuto, the Marlins' young star who is no fan of the team's total teardown. Might the two NL East rivals get together and swing a trade? That all depends on how dire the situation at catcher becomes for New York.
For now, though, the Mets will make do with what they've got. But given that we're talking about the Mets, injuries lurk around every corner, so don't be surprised if either Lobaton or Nido suddenly breaks an arm or contracts West Nile virus or disappears into a haunted house and is never seen again. In which case, if you've got any catching experience or at least a catcher's glove and some moxie, send your resumé to 123-01 Roosevelt Ave., Flushing, N.Y., and let the Mets know that you're available. They may honestly need the help.