Mets catching conundrum: What to do about d'Arnaud, Rivera

One of the next big decisions the Mets are facing is one they never expected to be facing this winter. With two top catching prospects that they expected to push each other over the last two seasons, the Mets never thought they would be weighing whether they should tender Rene Rivera more than two million dollars to be the backup catcher next year.

But that is one of the questions the Mets are debating right now. Rivera is in his third year of arbitration eligibility and projected to get over $2 million next year — from someone. The Mets have until Dec. 2 to decide if they will hold onto the rights of the 33-year old catcher.

With the decline of Travis d’Arnaud and struggles of Kevin Plawecki, the organization’s top catching prospects, it’s a serious question. By the end of the 2016 season, Rivera was the personal catcher for Noah Syndergaard and pretty much splitting the starting job with d’Arnaud.

A team source said Wednesday night they had not decided on whether they would tender Rivera a contract yet. Another team source doubted they would spend $2.2 million on a backup catcher.

But the Mets should bring Rivera back and see that money as an investment in all that pitching they are banking on to get them back into the playoffs next year.

The Mets pitchers and catchers allowed a major-league worst 135 stolen bases this season with Noah Syndergaard allowing 48 and Matz allowing 20. D’Arnaud allowed 61 stolen bases and threw out 17 for a .218 caught-stealing percentage in his 70 games behind the plate. His catchers’ earned run average was 4.30.

Alderson indicated last week that he felt the catchers may have taken a little too much blame for that. Syndergaard, for example, had a very slow delivery time to the plate, making it hard for catchers to get off a throw before runners got a good jump.

With Plawecki hitting .197 in 48 games this season, the Mets turned to Rivera.

The veteran backup allowed 43 stolen bases and caught 18 stealing. His CERA was 2.78.

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Rene Rivera’s salary, which could be as high as $2.2 million, may be too steep for the Mets.

(Elsa/Getty Images)

The Mets have to weigh if that is worth $2.2 million.

Last week at the GM Meetings, Sandy Alderson bluntly said that catcher was a position where the Mets had to get better. An agent for one of the top free agent catchers on the market approached the Mets at those meetings in Scottsdale and said the Mets turned him away. The Mets front office made it clear they were not spending on a catcher, saying they would give d’Arnaud every chance this season.

Realistically, the Mets need to see a lot of improvement from d’Arnaud. First and foremost, they want to see improvement at the plate.

Offensively, the Mets were concerned with his swing reverting back to its old, longer motion as he struggled last year. He hit .247 with just 11 extra-base hits in 75 games. The often-injured catcher missed time on the disabled list for his the third straight major league season.

But the Mets also have to see those improvements behind the plate. They need a solid catcher who helps them take advantage of all that young pitching they expect to have back next season.

That is one reason the Mets hired Glenn Sherlock this week. The former minor league catcher will obviously serve as the third base coach, taking over for Tim Teufel, who struggled there last season. He will also be charged with working with d’Arnaud and the backup catcher, whomever that is.

The Mets were without a coach on staff that had catching experience last season. Former Mets bench coach Bob Guerin, who had worked with d’Arnaud and Plawecki daily in 2015, left the Mets to become the bench coach for the Dodgers. Dickie Scott, who replaced Guerin as bench coach, did not have the catching experience to help them and the Mets had planned to bring in an organization catching instructor as needed.

Hiring a catching coach shows how important the Mets feel it is to help their pitchers from behind the plate. Bringing back Rivera would give them the insurance they need there too.

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Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News

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