This past week the Mets added to their catching depth chart, a move that I had pointed out in weeks past as one of the few things left for the team to do before the season started.
The team agreed to a minor league deal with Devin Mesoraco, a veteran catcher that was with the team for the majority of the 2018 season. He was acquired in exchange for Matt Harvey in early May last year and was a serviceable starter for the team, bringing confidence behind the plate and had a solid bat himself.
This is a great move by the Mets for multiple reasons. First off, Mets pitchers, especially deGrom, loved throwing to Mesoraco last season because of his strong presence behind the plate. Although he is not the All-Star that he was in 2014 he still can hit a bit, especially for a catcher. In 66 games with the Mets last season, he had a slash line of .221/306/409 and had 10 home runs and 33 RBI’s.
Mesoraco could very well end up on the Opening Day roster this season because of many things. Travis d’Arnaud missed essentially the entire 2018 season due to a torn UCL in his throwing arm, this injury is not easy to recover from, especially considering how weak his arm was before the injury occurred.
If d’Arnaud proves unable to handle himself adequately behind the plate the team could opt to cut him before the season and stick with the veteran Mesoraco as the primary backup to Wilson Ramos.
Furthermore, earlier in the offseason Brodie Van Wagenen had discussed the possibility of using d’Arnaud as a utility player at multiple positions to keep his bat in the lineup. Now, this hasn’t been discussed much lately, but if the Mets believe he can be better suited as a bat off the bench or a spot starter around the diamond then they would likely need to carry a third catcher. Mesoraco is likely the man to fill that role.
Even if Mesoraco starts the season in AAA he will likely be needed in the big leagues at some point this season because of the long injury histories that d’Arnaud and Ramos have. This is a great signing for the Mets and it allows them to feel much more comfortable if Ramos or d’Arnaud get hurt for a long period of time.
What Else is Left to Do?
Spring Training is officially upon us on Tuesday as Pitchers and Catchers are due to report. Usually, that would mean every team is set and ready to go, however, since the offseason has moved at a glacial pace there are still plenty of great players available that can improve the Mets already strong depth.
At the moment the Mets only really need to beef up on their starting pitching depth. I discussed a multitude of options for them in my most recent article and it is likely that they will take their time to decide who fits the team best because there are about 10 guys still available that could really improve the depth for the starting rotation.
Beyond that, I think they can keep an eye on Martin Maldonado. Maldonado is someone that was on the Mets radar earlier in this offseason because of his elite defense behind the plate. He can’t hit much, but would be a great backup should something go awry for the team early in Spring Training.
This is something that is unlikely to happen as Mesoraco really fills the role of veteran catching depth, which would be redundant with Maldonado on the roster as well. However, if the team does not think d’Arnaud will be able to handle himself behind the plate and opts to cut him before the season they will need another veteran to step in as minor league depth, or even someone to jump over Mesoraco as a backup. Maldonado would be very useful in that role.
The Current Outlook
The Mets have a strong team with depth all around. If injuries hit in a few spots they should be able to stay afloat much easier this year as compared to the past two seasons when a starter going down for a long stretch meant the end of the season.
Unfortunately for them, this year the division is extremely strong. The Mets, Braves, Phillies, and Nationals are all legitimate contenders with strong rosters top to bottom and only a few weaknesses. At the moment any of these teams could win the division and nobody would be shocked. They all project to win between 85-92 games and the division’s winner may not be decided until very late in the season.
Right now I would say that the Nationals are the slight favorites with the best starting lineup and arguably the best rotation. Their bullpen is a big question mark top to bottom, but they have three Cy Young contenders in their rotation.
Behind them is a toss-up at the moment with the Mets and Phillies having a small advantage over the Braves, in my opinion. The Phillies and Mets have been the most active teams league-wide this offseason, making big moves to improve their rosters and the Phillies are still favorites to sign Harper or Machado.
If the Phillies sign one of the two superstars it would easily make them the division favorite. They have already brought in McCutchen, Realmuto, and Segura to bolster their lineup that was already strong, add in Harper or Machado and they would have the best lineup in the NL.
The Braves are the defending champions of the division but I don’t think they have done anything to improve themselves as the Mets and Phillies did. We have to remember that the division this year will be stronger than last year, so relying on an aging Josh Donaldson to be the big acquisition is a risky proposition even if Albies and Acuna take steps forward.
They still should compete and could win the division but on paper, I think they are the fourth team in the division.
We already know about the Mets additions and the team’s success will still ride on the starting rotation’s ability to stay healthy, but the offense is improved for sure, the bullpen is actually a strength, and the bench will have major league caliber players on it with more players of that ilk waiting in the minors as true backup.
The Mets’ outlook is promising, but the path to a division title is not as easy as it was from 2015-2018. They will have competition, but they seem up to the challenge.