On the day James McCann returned from the injured list, Mets general manager Billy Eppler opened the door just a touch to the idea of baseball’s No. 1 overall prospect Francisco Alvarez getting called up later this season.
“Never say never, right?” Eppler said on WFAN’s “Carton and Roberts” show two days after the Mets did not acquire a catcher at the trade deadline.
Eppler said a callup of the 20-year-old Alvarez was not going to happen “in the immediate future.”
But he didn’t rule it out happening during the season’s final two months.
“Are we sending evaluators through there and do I get debriefs from our coordinators that go through there? Yep. Absolutely,” he said. “Are we watching him close? We’re watching him close. We’re watching anybody in that Syracuse lineup very closely because that’s our group.”
Eppler was asked if he would be comfortable using Alvarez as a catcher and not just as a designated hitter considering the Mets have a veteran pitching staff.
“If the evaluators and the coaches that are doing the work with him day-to-day say yes, I’d have to keep an open mind about it,” Eppler said. “But it would be something that you would really scrutinize before firing that bullet.”
Alvarez has massive power – 22 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A this season and a ball hit completely out of a Triple-A stadium on Wednesday – but is not as polished behind the plate.
“He’s doing both right now and he’s checking boxes, kind of some of the development objectives that we laid out for him even before moving him to Triple-A,” Eppler said. “He’s getting there and he’s holding up his end of the bargain and working towards it.”
Wednesday’s blast at Lehigh Valley for Triple-A Syracuse was Alvarez’s fourth homer in the last nine games. After starting his first taste of Triple-A by going 2-for-23, Alvarez has 10 hits in his last 38 at-bats.
Overall, he is batting .197 for Syracuse, but his power and patience (15 walks) has led to an .822 OPS.
With McCann returning from an oblique strain to join Tomas Nido, the Mets have two excellent defensive catchers. But neither has hit much this season.
The Mets were linked to Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, who was not traded. Eppler was asked if he had any talks with Chicago about Contreras.
“I’ll just tell you we were open to anything that could upgrade the club,” Eppler said. “But not going to get into any kind of specifics on position.”
The Mets went into Thursday night’s opener of a five-game series against Atlanta with a 3½-game lead over the defending World Series champions.
Since the All-Star break, the Mets have traded for position players Daniel Vogelbach, Tyler Naquin and Darin Ruf and reliever Mychal Givens. They did not make the big splash some were expecting.
Eppler said he was pleased with the haul and pointed to the returns of injured players McCann, Jacob deGrom and Trevor May as big additions the Mets were able to make without giving up anything.
McCann started behind the plate on Thursday after spending nearly a month on the injured list because of left oblique strain. McCann, who was batting .183, also missed time with a broken hand.
“Feels like I’ve been in offseason mode, just kind of grinding through these two injuries,” McCann said. “It’s exciting to be back.”
McCann was asked about the Contreras rumors.
“It’s one of those things [that] you control what you control,” he said. “Obviously, the faith that they’ve put in us means a lot. But their expectations for me are never going to be as high as my expectations for me.”