CINCINNATI -- Like most around baseball, the Mets had little idea if they would be able to trade Matt Harvey when they designated him for assignment last weekend. Considering the act manufactured urgency for teams seeking pitching help, the Mets suspected more than a few would be tempted to take their chances with a former All-Star starter. But acquiring a usable piece, let alone at a position of utmost need, was no guarantee.
It was not until Devin Mesoraco made the short trek from the home to the visiting clubhouse at Great American Ball Park on Tuesday that the Mets' hopes became reality. The Mets dealt Harvey for Mesoraco and cash, acquiring catching help for a player they determined was not one of their 25 best.
"I don't think we're surprised. I think we're fortunate that it happened to work out the way it did," Mets special assistant to the general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "To be able to address one of our needs was something we were looking to do. Being able to do it, we were pretty happy about that."
Healthy this season after missing much of the past three due to injuries, Mesoraco hit .220 with one home run in 18 games for the Reds. In New York, he gives the Mets a measure of catching depth with their top two backstops, Travis d'Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki, injured. d'Arnaud, who underwent Tommy John surgery last month, is out for the season. Plawecki has been slow to recover from a fractured bone in his left hand, and is still several weeks away from a return.
Enter Mesoraco, who hit .273 with 25 home runs and an .893 OPS during his best year with Cincinnati in 2014. Overall in eight seasons, Mesoraco was a .234 hitter with a .715 OPS. He is making $13.1 million this season, which is why the Reds also sent cash to offset the difference in salaries. Harvey is making $5.6 million. (To clear roster space for Mesoraco, the Mets placed third baseman Todd Frazier on the 10-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain, and shifted reliever Anthony Swarzak to the 60-day DL.)
Yet those salaries are hardly the only disparity between the two players. Whereas Harvey became a tabloid regular during six seasons in New York, Mesoraco earned a reputation as a model citizen in Cincinnati. Before making the deal, Mets officials discussed it with former Reds Jay Bruce and Frazier, and both spoke glowingly of Mesoraco.
"I told them he's an outstanding person," Frazier said.
"He's an excellent teammate," added Reds general manager Dick Williams. "He's handled all the injuries and the setbacks so well. And the role this year, he's handled very well, being in a supporting role. The conversation was bittersweet, but he was professional, he was thankful, he's happy for the opportunity."
Following that conversation, Mesoraco changed from his Reds clothes into a more generic pair of pants, then walked a few hundred feet to the Mets' clubhouse through a service corridor. Mesoraco joked that he considered -- but thought better of -- lugging his Cincinnati equipment bag from one dugout to the other, in front of several hundred fans who had already settled into their seats.
Once Mesoraco arrived, he greeted Frazier, Bruce, Mets manager Mickey Callaway and others, before settling onto the bench to watch his old teammates play his new ones. A greater role will come soon for Mesoraco, who could become the Mets' primary catcher in short order -- an increase in playing time and a jump up the standings he did not see coming when he reported to work on Tuesday afternoon.
Mesoraco even had his first Mets at-bat Tuesday night, striking out in a ninth-inning pinch-hit appearance against reliever Austin Brice, who had been his teammate a few hours earlier.
"It was super weird," Mesoraco said. "It was just kind of surreal. It's a whirlwind. It's a lot to have happen in 15 minutes, being with a whole new club when you've been [with the other one] for 10 years. So it's definitely a whirlwind. But I'm thankful that the Mets showed some faith and are going to give me an opportunity."