The Mets no longer have a backlog at the backstop with James McCann having been traded to the Baltimore Orioles, but they do have two catchers under contract for the next two years.
What does that mean for top prospect Francisco Alvarez?
Let’s break down the Mets’ catching situation for 2023 and 2024.
The Mets signed Omar Narvaez to a one-year contract with a player option for 2024 in December, worth $15 million guaranteed. An All-Star in 2021 with the Milwaukee Brewers, the 30-year-old Venezuelan is a decent hitter and hits from the left side, so the Mets can split his starts with Tomas Nido.
Nido signed a two-year, $3.7 million contract last week. This takes him through his last two arbitration years and provides the club with an affordable catcher at a fixed cost. The 28-year-old Puerto Rican is a good hitter from the right side but his defense and framing have become his calling cards.
Defensive metrics show Nido is an excellent framer, something he learned from former Mets’ catcher Travis d’Arnaud, and he has a great relationship with some of the team’s most important arms.
Nido is coming off of his best season, having caught a career-high 98 games. He doesn’t have a ton of pop but he did hit 15 doubles last season and drove in 28 runs.
But Alvarez does have pop in his bat. If all goes according to plan, Alvarez could be one of the rare power-hitting catchers and the Mets’ best one since Mike Piazza.
In 112 games between Double-A and Triple-A in 2022, Alvarez hit 27 home runs and posted a .885 OPS. He hit left-handed pitching especially hard, posting a .908 OPS in Binghamton with three home runs.
The Mets called him up late in September for a series in Atlanta that decided the division. They needed pop from the left side. But they didn’t get it, going 0-for-8 with three strikeouts. You probably know what happened from there — the Mets finished second in the NL East and then lost in an NL Wild Card series to the San Diego Padres.
But in between those two series, he did show some flashes of that raw power. He hit his first big league home run and he got his money’s worth with a monster, 439-footer off of Washington Nationals right-hander Carl Edwards Jr. He later doubled off of righty Erasmo Ramirez.
There was some talk of using Alvarez primarily as a DH next season while he develops his catching game at the Major League level. The Mets shuffled some personnel this winter to be able to have Glenn Sherlock work with Alvarez. A longtime catching coordinator who first came to the Mets in 2017 to work with d’Arnaud, Sherlock was Buck Showalter’s bench coach last season.
The Mets could go that route and use him and Tommy Pham against left-handed pitching if Darin Ruf ends up being out of the equation.
Clearly, Alvarez is a priority. But that means he may start the season in Triple-A.
The last thing the Mets want to do is rush one of the top prospects in baseball. He plays a premium position and the club wants to ensure he’s capable of working with their pitching staff and they don’t want him overwhelmed at the plate.
The Mets have some options. His contract could make him an attractive trade candidate. Whether or not he plays a big role for the big club this season, Alvarez will be a part of the Mets’ future and Nido gives them some insurance until he’s ready. The development of Alvarez will be one of the key storylines to watch in spring training and throughout the early part of the 2023 season.