While it is sad knowing that RA Dickey is no longer a New York Met, I have to admit I am very excited about the players the Mets have acquired for him. Noah Syndergaard is quite a pitching prospect and Wulimer Becerra has potential, but in this post I will focus on the four catchers that were exchanged in the deal. By trading Dickey to the Jays, the Mets significantly improved their situation behind the plate for next season and beyond.
By sending Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas to Toronto, the Mets improved by subtraction. While both Thole and Nickeas were regarded as solid clubhouse guys, neither of them had any significant impact on the team’s record. In fact I believe they hampered the team more than they helped. Despite their flaws, the fact that Nickeas and Thole both have the ability to catch the knuckle ball inflated their trade value in this deal. Had the Mets opted out of including their catchers, they may not have been able to pry Noah Syndergaard from the Jays.
The centerpiece of the Dickey deal was Travis d’Arnaud. d’Arnaud is the number one catching prospect in baseball, and arguably the best position player prospect in baseball. I did not think the Mets would be able to pry away d’Arnaud from Toronto, but Sandy Alderson worked his magic yet again. In 2011′ d’Arnaud was the AA Eastern League MVP by hitting .311 with 21 home runs. His 2012 numbers were even more impressive with a .333 batting average with 16 homers in a mere 67 games. It is important to note that these numbers are inflated due to the fact that he played his home games in thin aired Las Vegas, but his home road splits were nearly identical. Eastern league numbers are generally a solid indicator of MLB success. I have heard or read one scout yet who views d’Arnaud as anything less than a long term, franchise catcher.
The reason d’Arnaud played in only 67 games was because he suffered a season ending knee injury. Prior to the deal being finalized the Mets reviewed his medical records and deemed his knee to no longer be a problem. Although I see d’Arnaud as a future #5 or #6 hitter in the batting order with above average defense, the most likely scenario for the beginning of his season is at AAA. If Travis remains at AAA for 20 days when the season begins, the Mets will be able to control him through 2019. I do not see d’Arnaud spending time in Vegas as a bad thing. He will get to warm up and catch Zack Wheeler a few times before heading to Queens.
Additionally, the Mets acquired John Buck from Toronto. This is the second time Buck has been traded this off season as he was also a piece of the Marlins fire sale. Many fans have seen Buck’s .192 average last season and have already written him off, but Buck still managed to have a higher on base percentage and slugging percentage than Josh Thole last season. Buck is also regarded as a decent defender. He will be able to fill in for d’Arnaud for the first few weeks until he is ready. When d’Arnaud comes up Buck will be relegated to the bench, and I really like him in that role. There is nothing wrong with a power hitting catcher off the bench, and having depth is key. Plus, a veteran like Buck will help in d’Arnaud’s development.
Overall the Mets catching will be much better next season. d’Arnaud may not be a superstar right away, but the tandem he will form along with Buck will be lightyears better than the Thole-Nickeas combo the Mete have had the past few years. It will certainly be interspersing the watch the hopefully long career of Travis d’Arnaud.