Mets designate catcher d'Arnaud, recall Nido

April 28th, 2019

NEW YORK -- Before leaving Citi Field late Saturday night, Travis d'Arnaud addressed the boos that rained down on him earlier in the evening. He said he understood how Mets fans felt, and that he had “to play better.”

Upon awakening the next day, d’Arnaud reported to Citi Field and learned that he would not have that opportunity. The Mets designated d’Arnaud, their third-longest tenured player, for assignment, recalling Tomas Nido from Triple-A Syracuse to take his place. While the Mets are on the hook for the remainder of d’Arnaud’s salary, his time in the organization is likely complete.

“He’s a player that is talented,” general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said, “but not the right fit for us right now.”

That marks a shift in organizational philosophy from December, when the Mets tendered d’Arnaud a contract that wound up being worth $3.515 million through arbitration. It is also a shift from February and March, when the team could have cut d’Arnaud and owed him only a fraction of that money.

Before those deadlines, the Mets felt that d’Arnaud, a lifetime .242 hitter who slashed .268/.340/.485 during the team’s World Series run in 2015, could return from Tommy John surgery to be their second-best catcher. They saw a player whose offensive upside was beyond league average at his position.

Instead, d’Arnaud began the season on the injured list, returned in early April and went 2-for-25 during his stay with the Mets. In his final game Saturday, d’Arnaud airmailed a throw to second base, allowed a passed ball and three wild pitches, and was thrown out trying to stretch a single to a double in a four-run game. Less than 12 hours later, the Mets removed him from their roster.

“It’s not a knee-jerk to any particular play or any particular game, but we have to evaluate in real time the different scenarios that take place,” Van Wagenen said. “I think we gave Travis every bit of time to fully rehab. We felt like even once he had rehabbed himself and proven himself healthy, we wanted to give him time to show us what he’s capable of doing. Ultimately, we felt like Nido gives us a greater upside at this moment.”

Nido, whom scouts consider the best defensive catcher in the organization, was hitting .289 with a .616 OPS at Syracuse. The Mets chose him over Rene Rivera, a 35-year-old veteran who is not on the 40-man roster. Not in consideration was Devin Mesoraco, who remains on the restricted list after declining to report to Syracuse. (Mesoraco has an “open door” to fulfill his contractual obligation to do so, according to Van Wagenen.)

All of those players rest behind Wilson Ramos on the Mets’ depth chart. Appearing in all but one of the Mets’ games in his first season as their starting catcher, Ramos is batting .260 with a .645 OPS and -4 Defensive Runs Saved.

“I have no doubt that Wilson Ramos is the right guy to be behind the plate on a primary basis for us,” Van Wagenen said.

The Mets once thought the same about d’Arnaud, whom they acquired with Noah Syndergaard as part of the R.A. Dickey trade to Toronto in 2012. Over seven big league seasons, d’Arnaud was never able to shake his reputation as an injury-prone player, landing on the injured list at least once in every one of those campaigns. He opened this season on the IL as a form of extended spring training, after undergoing Tommy John surgery last April.

Still, d’Arnaud offered the Mets flashes of success, most notably bashing three home runs in 14 postseason games in 2015. He was the Mets’ third-longest tenured player behind Juan Lagares and Zack Wheeler, but that run has now come to an end. Because d’Arnaud has more than five years of service time, he can refuse an outright assignment to the Minors, forcing the Mets either to trade or release him. (His salary will almost certainly prevent another team from claiming him off waivers.)

“It’s tough,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “He is one of the longer-tenured Mets here. It’s tough news to break.”