Mets face decision on whether to keep d'Arnaud

Catcher is a candidate to be non-tendered by Friday deadline

November 28th, 2018

NEW YORK -- The Mets' decision this week regarding should hint strongly at their catching plans in 2019. The club must decide by Friday whether to tender a contract to d'Arnaud, who made $3.5 million last season and spent all but two weeks of it recovering from Tommy John surgery.

The Mets can either tender the 29-year-old d'Arnaud a contract, which would likely net him a modest raise. Or they can non-tender him, hinting that they intend to replace d'Arnaud as their starting catcher. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen did not respond to a message seeking clarity on the team's thinking leading up to Friday's league-wide non-tender deadline; when asked about the catching position in general earlier this month, he kept things vague.

"I think we're in a fortunate position where we don't have to do anything in the catcher market," Van Wagenen said. "We will continue to be talking to free agents at that position and others, and then also exploring trades. We can go into camp right now feeling confident we have that position covered."

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The Mets could conceivably work out a deal to non-tender d'Arnaud and retain him at a lower salary, though that is no guarantee. The only sure way to maintain team control over the former first-round Draft pick would be to tender him a contract, thereby starting the arbitration process. From there, the Mets and d'Arnaud would exchange salary figures and either settle on a middle ground (the more common solution), or have an independent arbiter rule in favor of one or the other.

Tendering d'Arnaud would keep three catchers on the Mets' 40-man roster. In addition to d'Arnaud, the Mets employ , who is likely to be their backup one way or the other, and , a 24-year-old who figures to start next season at Triple-A Syracuse. If the Mets seek an upgrade over d'Arnaud, they can pursue free agents , or , the latter a defensive whiz with a lesser offensive resume than d'Arnaud. Or they can try to complete a long-shot trade with the Marlins for All-Star J.T. Realmuto.

The Mets have maintained hope that d'Arnaud will be back to full strength by Opening Day, though that would require him to complete his Tommy John rehab in less than a year. The oft-injured d'Arnaud has averaged 73 games per season since his first full year in 2014, batting .248 with a .725 OPS in those contests.

In any event, Friday's deadline should hint at the Mets' intentions, if not outright declare them. New York has one other non-tender candidate in , whose status Van Wagenen would not discuss earlier this month at the GM Meetings. But Flores is becoming expensive for a bench bat. But he has also been valuable to the Mets in past seasons, producing a career .780 OPS against left-handed pitchers.

The Mets' other arbitration-eligible players -- , , Zack Wheeler, , and Plawecki -- are all obvious candidates to be tendered contracts before the deadline.