PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — In a manner of speaking, the Mets did make a significant move for a catcher this offseason. And the player they hope to acquire, as a result, is the 2015 Travis d’Arnaud, someone the front office believes still exists. Or at least hopes so.
On a sunny but cool morning at Tradition Field, d’Arnaud was working out Tuesday, one of the few Mets regulars to show up at the team’s facility more than two weeks before pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report. While d’Arnaud wouldn’t admit it, everything he’s done so far this offseason spoke of a soon-to-be 28-year-old whose career is likely at a crossroads, which is how the Mets no doubt view him as well.
To nudge d’Arnaud back on the right track, the team hired catching instructor Glenn Sherlock, formerly of the Diamondbacks, to finally replace the very much missed Bob Geren, who had been critical to the young catcher’s earlier success before joining the Dodgers’ staff after the 2015 season. And this was a relationship that couldn’t wait for spring training to get underway as d’Arnaud twice visited with Sherlock during the winter, first in Scottsdale, Arizona — together with hitting coach Kevin Long — and later in Los Angeles. The two sessions involved a ton of film study, far more than d’Arnaud had ever done, to scrutinize the mechanics of his defense, and particularly his throwing issues last season.
“It showed me exactly what I needed to see,” d’Arnaud said. “Stuff I needed to work on. Stuff I succeeded at. Stuff I didn’t do well. So it’s nice to get feedback like that.”
The Mets’ hiring of Sherlock suggests a renewed faith in d’Arnaud, who in 2012 was considered the centerpiece of the Blue Jays’ trade package for R.A. Dickey — until the stunning ascent of Noah Syndergaard. That confidence appeared to wane midway through last season when d’Arnaud’s name kept popping up in trade discussions and his value dipped due to a poor defensive year and a subpar .629 OPS.
Rather than ditch d’Arnaud, however, the Mets doubled down by getting Sherlock, who seems to be making some early progress getting his pupil back to where he needs to be. That’s the impression one gets from d’Arnaud, who fully understands why the coach Kevin Plawecki recently dubbed “Sherlock Holmes” is now on the Mets’ payroll.
“For the team to bring [Sherlock] in is a huge commitment,” d’Arnaud said. “It shows they have my back and they want me to get better and improve just like I want to do.”
The first thing d’Arnaud mentioned when asked about his video work with Sherlock was why he didn’t try all of this sooner. That’s how illuminating these sessions have been. As for the offensive side, d’Arnaud is working to eliminate wrapping the bat behind his head, a flaw in his stance that hurt him last season.
“Yeah, I’m trying to,” d’Arnaud said. “I don’t know if it comes back, but I’m not starting there anymore.”
Other than an engagement in Denver to his fiancee Britney, d’Arnaud feels like the baseball season never really ended for him. He’s back at his home in Port St. Lucie, and on the field again earlier than most, in a determined effort to be the player he once was.
Notes & quotes: Highly touted shortstop Amed Rosario, listed as the No. 3 prospect overall by ESPN’s Keith Law, is among those who have shown up early to work out at the spring training facility . . . The Mets’ Tradition Field opener is Feb. 25 vs. the Nationals. For single-game tickets visit Mets.com or call 718-507-TIXX.