With the World Series set to begin in a couple days, the offseason is right around the corner. The offseason is a long, grueling process, but it can certainly be exciting. The New York Mets' front office is currently in offseason mode and they have been ready for this season to end for a while now. Once the World Series comes to an end, Sandy Alderson can really start to get his hands dirty.
Catcher was a rough position for the Mets this season. The Mets went into the season with a lot of confidence in their young backstop, Josh Thole. Thole was coming off an impressive spring training and expectations were high.
It turned out that the expectations were unrealistic ones and Thole struggled to get in a groove this season. Thole showed a lot of pop in his bat in spring training, but he only managed to hit a mere three home runs this season. His low home run output coupled with his .268 average left little to be desired.
Thole also struggled in the field. It seemed as if he had problems all year behind home plate. Thole showed flashes of his potential, but he certainly didn't blow away the Mets' new regime. He did, however, do good enough to earn himself another solid shot at grasping the Mets' starting catcher job. He will most likely be platooning with someone next season.
Thole was in a strict platoon with offseason signee Ronny Paulino throughout most of the season. Paulino's numbers were similar to Tholes; he batted .268 and hit two home runs in his injury-shortened season. It looks as if Paulino won't be back next season. If that is the case, then it currently looks as if the Mets backup (platoon) catcher will be Mike Nickeas.
Nickeas didn't have an impressive season, but he wasn't expected to produce with the bat at all. He is a solid defender and if he can learn how to walk more and put together better at-bats, then he should be a serviceable backup to Josh Thole.
Catcher is low on the Mets' offseason to-do list, but Sandy might bring in another catcher that will compete for playing time in spring training. The crop of catchers in this year's free-agent class isn't so strong. But there are some solid players that can be classified as low-risk, high-reward players. Given, the reward might not be very high, but it should certainly be better than the players' value in money.
Dioner Navarro had a fantastic season with the Rays in 2008. He had a great line of .295/.349/.407. Navarro was nominated onto the 2008 All-Star team and he looked like an emerging star. He was only 24 in 2008 and now he is 27 and his career has really changed since 2008. Navarro's average has dropped the past three seasons and he has even spent some time in the minors these past two years.
He played in 64 games with the Dodgers this season and he put up a line of .193/.276/.324. Navarro's salary was $1 million last year and he will certainly be looking for a similar contract this offseason. What makes me think that he will be a good acquisition for the Mets is that he has shown that he has a solid amount of talent, and his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) hasn't been good these past three years.
He's had BABIP's of .231, .223, .210 in these past three seasons, respectively. The average BABIP for hitters is .290-.310 and Navarro has been well below that. There is definitely something to be said for Navarro posting a bad BABIP for three straight years, and it might just be that he lost his touch and he doesn't hit the ball hard enough.
Would you rather the Mets sign Dioner Navarro or J.R. Towles?
But there is still that chance that he may be suffering from bad luck. His career could possibly turn around and he is going to turn 28 next season, so he should still have a lot left in the tank. Navarro would battle for a chance to platoon with Thole. He would be great in a platoon with Thole because he is switch-hitter.
Navarro might never revert back to his All-Star form, but the Mets won't need him to. The Mets would just hope for a fraction of his 2008 season and they would be happy with that. A one-year, $1 million contract is most likely what it would take to sign Navarro, and that is a minor risk that I would be willing to take.
One more catcher that I think the Mets should take a look at is J.R. Towles. J.R. Towles is due to become a free agent after the World Series. Towles has some similarities with Navarro in that his BABIP has also been bad. There is a big difference, though. That difference is that Towles never put together a great season like Navarro did in 2008.
Towles, however, has consistently showed flashes of greatness throughout his career with the Astros. He is a pretty talented player, but he just hasn't been able to put it all together. Towles' BABIP in the past four seasons has been .157, .233, .229, .200. Once again, there might be something to be said for four straight years of low BABIP.
Towles has been called one of the unluckiest players in the game, though, and as I mentioned earlier, he has showed his potential to be a solid player. He will also be turning 28 this upcoming season, so he still has a lot left in his tank, too. Towles will most likely be looking for a one- to two-year deal worth at most $1 million a year. That is a very affordable risk and he might give the Mets a solid reward.
These two players are great examples of low-risk, high (solid)-reward players. The Mets are a New York team and New York teams aren't supposed to be making bargain-bin moves, but the Mets unfortunately have to this offseason due to the financial situation and the money that will have to be allocated if Jose Reyes re-signs.
Sandy has to do his best to work his magic this offseason, and I feel that these two players would be great pickups for the Mets.