When a veteran player who has played his entire career with the Mets leaves the team, there’s usually a wistful article and eventually a “Thank You” highlights video. Sadly, this is unlikely to be the case for catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who was designated for assignment following Saturday night’s loss to the Brewers.
For those who don’t know, or need a refresher, when a player is designated for assignment this essentially means that he will be traded or release within the next week or so. It’s a slight bit more complicated than that, but that’s the basic gist when it comes to d’Arnaud’s situation. As you may remember, slightly less than a year ago, former Mets pitcher Matt Harvey was DFA’d and was soon traded to the Reds for Devin Mesoraco (whom the Mets needed, in part, because of an injury to d’Arnaud). That move came about with much fanfare; d’Arnaud’s d’Eparture, not so much.
A brief history lesson: Travis d’Arnaud was originally selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the supplemental first round of the 2007 draft. In 2010, after three seasons in the Phillies system, he was amongst those traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for former AL Cy Young Awards winner (and eventual NL Cy Young Award winner, and eventual Hall of Famer) Roy Halladay. Just a few years later, prior to the 2013 season, d’Arnaud was part of the trade to the Mets that brought 2012 NL Cy Young Awards winner, R.A. Dickey, to the Blue Jays. While this is the same trade that brought Noah Syndergaard to the Mets, at the time it was d’Arnaud who was considered the centerpiece of the Mets’ haul. In August of 2013, d’Arnaud made his major league debut for the Mets.
In 2014, Travis d’Arnaud made the Mets Opening Day roster and played in 2/3 of the team’s games. He missed a little time due to a concussion, but otherwise remained pretty healthy. He had a pretty solid, albeit unspectacular, rookie season. The following season, d’Arnaud made a couple trips to the Disabled List (now known as the Injured List), first with a broken hand, then with a sprained elbow. By season’s end, he had only played in 67 of the Mets regular season games. His 2016 season was not all that different, as injuries played a part in limiting him to 75 games. In 2017, d’Arnaud played in a career-best 112 games, despite making an early-season trip to the DL due to a bruised right wrist.
Coming into the 2018 season, d’Arnaud was near the top of the “can he stay healthy” list of Mets. The suspense ended early for him, as four games into the season, it was announced that he would need Tommy John surgery. By the time that d’Arnaud returned to the Mets plans this season, the player who had shown so much potential that he was twice traded for Cy Young Award winning pitchers, was now just hoping to hang on to his roster spot. He did make the team, but that was pretty much the end of the good news for him. After 10 games played, d’Arnaud had reached base only 4 times in 25 plate appearances – 2 singles and 2 walks. While batting performances are sometimes compared to the “Mendoza Line” of a .200 batting average, d’Arnaud’s stats were only slightly better than my rookie little league season, and for the Mets needs, that just wasn’t going to cut it.
Early in his career, Travis d’Arnaud seemed to be a multi-tool catcher, who showed offensive promise while also earning defensive honors. At the beginning of this season, d’Arnaud was on the Mets roster in the hopes he still maintained some of that hitting ability. By the end of Saturday night’s game, d’Arnaud was acknowledging the Mets fans’ booing and accepting responsibility. And, on Sunday morning, he was no longer on the Mets 40-man roster.
As we near the end of April, the Mets find themselves a game over .500, in second place in what is almost assuredly going to be a remarkably tight NL East division. Any thing that the team can do to be better will likely impact their chances to play in the postseason. If the Mets had 3 more wins than they do through their first 27 games, they would be in first place. It is not Travis d’Arnaud’s fault the Mets are not in first place. Well, it is not just Travis d’Arnaud’s fault that the Mets are not in first place.
In reality, Travis d’Arnaud is the easiest casualty for this team. Replacing a backup catcher is rarely newsworthy. They brought up Tomas Nido to take his place. Nido is known as a light-hitting/good fielding catcher, and makes a more logical backup to Wilson Ramos. Should the Mets continue to hover around .500, or, really, should the Mets keep missing opportunities to take advantage of their NL East counterparts’ weaknesses, they may have some tougher decisions to make.
The Mets rookie GM, Brodie Van Wagenen, pledged that this team was assembled with a win-now mentality, which suggests that patience for players will be thin, and “good losses” will only be considered “losses”. Getting rid of a Travis d’Arnaud may have been the easiest way for Van Wagenen to prove that he means it, and I’m sure he’s hoping that it’s the only time he’ll need to.
Travis d’Arnaud’s tenure with the Mets will be characterized by injuries and thoughts of what could have been. Brodie Van Wagenen’s seems to be doing what he can to make sure that his Mets tenure is not thought of the same way.