Once the prized prospect traded for a Cy Young Award winner, Travis d’Arnaud was designated for assignment by the Mets on Sunday morning, a de facto acknowledgment by team decision-makers one month into the season that they mismanaged their catching situation through spring training.
D’Arnaud, 30, was 2-for-23 (.087). His second hit came against the Brewers on Saturday, and he was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double with the Mets trailing by four runs. He also had issues defensively — throwing out base-stealers, passed balls, wild pitches — in his return from Tommy John surgery last April.
The Mets have seven days to trade, release or outright d’Arnaud to the minors. They called up Tomas Nido from Triple-A Syracuse to replace him as the backup to Wilson Ramos. As a pinch hitter, Nido contributed a two-out, two-run double in the eighth inning of the Mets’ 5-2 win over the Brewers.
“We gave Travis every bit of time to fully rehab,” general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said. “We felt like even once he had rehabbed himself and proven himself healthy, we wanted to give him time to show us what he’s capable of doing. Ultimately, we felt like Nido gives us a greater upside.”
Devin Mesoraco, who is on the restricted list after refusing to join a minor-league affiliate, still has “an open door” to rejoin the organization, Van Wagenen said. A source close to Mesoraco says it’s “doubtful” that the Mets dumping d’Arnaud changes anything for him.
The Mets had several other chances to part with d’Arnaud since Van Wagenen was hired last fall. In November, knowing d’Arnaud was questionable for the start of the season because of major elbow surgery, the Mets tendered him a contract. In January, they chose him over Kevin Plawecki, who was traded to the Indians.
Had the Mets cut d’Arnaud before the end of spring training, they would have had to pay him for only one month of the season. Mets executives insisted at the time that they never considered that option and said they were committed to d’Arnaud and allowing him to complete his rehab.
D’Arnaud opened the season on the injured list, returned April 7 after a brief rehab assignment and started five games before the Mets decided they had seen enough.
Now his $3.52 million contract is guaranteed, and the Mets are on the hook for all of it unless they find a trade partner.
“This move wasn’t about economics, obviously,” Van Wagenen said.
But it was about defense, which was “a big factor,” according to Van Wagenen. Nido has a reputation as a strong defensive catcher, though he never has hit much in the minors (.263/.303/.378 in eight seasons) or the majors (.170/.198/.240 in 41 games across three seasons).
“He’s one of the best receivers in our organization,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “And we feel at this point, that’s what we need. We need a defensive guy back there, especially when Ramos isn’t catching to get us through the game.”
D’Arnaud was one of the longest-tenured Mets, acquired from the Blue Jays along with Noah Syndergaard in December 2012 as part of the seven-player trade that sent 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to Toronto.
Heading into the 2013 season, d’Arnaud was ranked as the No. 23 prospect in the game by Baseball America, No. 15 by Baseball Prospectus and No. 6 by MLB Pipeline. He was the Mets’ catcher of a future that never came.
D’Arnaud has been hurt for part of every season since 2014. This year, after the most significant of those injuries, five starts was the end.
“He came into camp in shape and worked his butt off,” Van Wagenen said. “He showed that he’s a player that is talented, but not the right fit for us right now.”