It once was considered a weakness, an area crying out for the Mets to make a move before Major League Baseball’s trading deadline. Now, maybe not so much. The club’s catchers continue to contribute behind the plate and are faring better at it of late.
When trade talk started to heat up around the All-Star break, the Mets were getting little to speak of offensively from their catchers. They were batting .198, which ranked 14th of 15 in the National League. Acquiring a catcher for the stretch run appeared critical.
Making a deal for the Cubs’ Willson Contreras was one of the logical solutions that had to be considered. The Mets didn’t do that, though, and, as the adage goes, sometimes the best trades are the ones a team does not make.
That is not to say that Tomas Nido, who got the start Saturday night as the Mets hosted Philadelphia at Citi Field, and James McCann are crushing it offensively. But in the second half, entering Saturday, Mets catchers were batting an aggregate .273, which ranked seventh in the NL in that span.
Nido has made the big contribution to this offensive improvement. In the first half, he hit .210, but he brought a slash line of .289/.347/.400 since the All-Star break into Saturday’s contest.
Manager Buck Showalter was asked about the uptick in Nido’s performance with the bat. He replied: “He hasn’t been quite as big [swinging] and as committal early. He’s getting in some little deeper counts . . . Tomas, you know, he wants to hit. It’s like guys that don’t run particularly well but are good baserunners.
“Heck, Tomas led a league in hitting in the minor leagues,” Showalter added, referring to his 2016 Florida State League batting title with Class A St. Lucie.
Mets catchers have been well above average defensively all season. Entering Saturday’s game, the club had an NL-lowest 20 wild pitches and an above-average four passed balls. In the metric of pitch- framing — crucial for catchers — Nido was among the best in the NL.
“The priority is always is the catching,” Showalter said. “I look at where their defensive metrics are, especially with [McCann] much improved. I can tell that’s been a real priority for them this year.”
In the club’s initial plan, McCann was to be the starter and Nido the backup. McCann, however, missed six weeks with a broken left hamate bone and almost four more with an oblique strain. Nido made his 66th start on Saturday.
McCann was activated off the injured list from the oblique injury on Aug. 4 — perhaps the only time the Mets indicated an urgency about the catching situation. In other circumstances, he might have remained on the IL a bit longer. He still hasn’t played two consecutive games, something one might have done on a minor- league rehab assignment before returning to the major-league roster.
McCann will catch Chris Bassitt in the series finale against the Phillies on Sunday and Showalter said he has progressed physically to the point that he will play in consecutive games during the upcoming road trip to Atlanta, Philadelphia and Yankee Stadium.
“I’m thinking sometime in this stretch, this road trip, that we will feel comfortable playing him back-to-back if we want to,” Showalter said.
Because of the injuries, Nido has played more than he has in any other season. Of particular interest is that someone viewed as a backup would be showing improved hitting after surpassing his career high in games played and plate appearances.
It’s in there,” Showalter said. “A lot of these guys, they come in here and we forget that they were hitting third and fourth in some lineup somewhere along the way.”