What should Mets do at catcher? It’s Francisco Alvarez’s job, everyone else playing for 2nd string

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Francisco Alvarez Mets
New York Mets’ Francisco Alvarez hits a three run home run during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays Wednesday, May 17, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Mets’ looming log jam at catcher has sent the speculation mill into hyperdrive in recent days as uncertainty regarding Francisco Alvarez’s immediate future in the majors appears uncertain.

Tomas Nido has begun his rehab work down in Port St. Lucie after undergoing a plug procedure to rectify dry-eye syndrome while Omar Narvaez is expected to begin playing in minor-league games as he works back from a strained calf this week. Their potential returns near as former Yankees All-Star Gary Sanchez was introduced to the Mets’ ranks on Sunday after he was called up from Triple-A.

That makes three catchers with zero minor-league options in their contracts on the roster and one in Alvarez that does — and it’s Alvarez who is least deserving of a potential demotion when the Mets are faced with four catchers vying for two roster spots. 

The 21-year-old has quickly proven that with consistent playing time, he can hang in the majors. After a slow start to his second stint in the majors after the injuries to Nido and Narvaez forced the Mets to call him up sooner than expected, Alvarez is slashing .280/.368/.600 (.968 OPS) with four home runs and nine RBI over his previous 17 games leading into Tuesday night’s series opener in Chicago against the Cubs.

Francisco Alvarez Brett Baty Mets
New York Mets’ Brett Baty (22) hugs Francisco Alvarez after Pete Alonso (20) hit a walk-off three-run home run during the tenth inning a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays Wednesday, May 17, 2023, in New York. The Mets won 8-7. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

We’re finally seeing the big bat that had wowed scouts and prospect analysts alike in recent seasons down in the minors, prompting MLB Pipeline to name him baseball’s No. 1 overall prospect. But what has been ahead of schedule, in a way, is his defense after spending the winter working with the likes of Yadier Molina, considered one of the best defensive backstops the game has ever seen. 

His pitch framing is in the 89th percentile this season and his strike rate of 51.5% ranks seventh among all catchers in MLB, per Baseball Savant. However, he’s only caught four of 37 potential base stealers so far (11%) despite his pop-up time being in the 62nd percentile. 

That in no way is enough of a reason to send him back down to the minors, especially given the contributions that he’s made to help turn the Mets’ fortunes around. 

His game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth on Wednesday against the MLB-best Tampa Bay Rays sparked an extra-innings victory that was the first of five straight entering Tuesday night’s game against the Cubs. He followed it up with a game-tying single in the bottom of the 10th on Friday night against the Cleveland Guardians where he took second base on the throw home. It allowed him to score on Francisco Lindor’s game-winning single.

At this point in time, it doesn’t look like there’s anything else that Alvarez could take out of another trip back down to the minors — and the Mets can’t afford to take a difference-maker out of their ranks when things appear to be turning around. 

That means the most logical options are trying to find ways to cut ties with two of Nido, Narvaez, and Sanchez and having them play behind Alvarez until something suggests otherwise. 

For more on the Mets and Francisco Alvarez, visit AMNY.com