On April 4 of this year, the Mets cleared Travis d’Arnaud, who began 2018 as their starting catcher, to begin a rehab assignment after missing much of last season due to Tommy John surgery in his throwing elbow.
Twenty-four days and 23 at-bats later, the Mets designated him for assignment and on May 3, released him. The Dodgers picked him up for a pro-rated portion of the big-league minimum, $550,000, and after one game, shipped him off to the Tampa Bay Rays, where he serves as the backup to Mike Zunino.
Meanwhile, the Mets are footing the remainder of d’Arnaud’s $3 million salary, a shockingly profligate move for a notoriously tight-fisted organization.
This was a questionable decision, to say the least, even before d’Arnaud shocked the Yankees by smacking three home runs Monday night in the Bronx -- one fewer that Mets starter Wilson Ramos has hit all season -- including a game-winning three-run homer off closer Aroldis Chapman to give the Tampa Bay Rays a 5-4 victory.
That performance by d’Arnaud, who is batting .282 with nine home runs, 26 RBI and an .884 OPS in 39 games for the Rays, served to remind everyone of the foolishness of not only signing d’Arnaud to a $3.5 million deal in the off-season, but also of pulling the plug on it based on a ridiculously small sample-size.
The Mets and rookie GM Brodie Van Wagenen have never provided a satisfactory explanation for why they chose to sign d’Arnaud to such a deal in December, knowing he was still recovering from a serious injury, or why they gave up on him so abruptly.
But here is the upshot of the move: In signing d’Arnaud, the Mets chose to trade Kevin Plawecki, who is now the Cleveland Indians’ backup catcher, and to alienate Devin Mesoraco, who chose to retire rather than accept a minor-league assignment after the Mets signed Wilson Ramos (two years, $19 million) as their everyday catcher.
Meanwhile, neither of the Mets two top starters, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, like throwing to Ramos -- they loved throwing to Mesoraco -- while d”Arnaud has emerged as a more than serviceable No. 2 for the Rays, who are battling for a playoff spot.
And d’Arnaud’s offensive numbers are much better than those of Tomas Nido, the Mets backup, who is hitting .244 with three home runs, 12 RBI and a .642 OPS.
But if it’s any consolation to Mets fans, Monday was the second time this month in which d’Arnaud had victimized their arch-rival Yankees; On July 6, he hit a walk-off home run off Chad Green in the bottom of the ninth inning of a game in St. Petersburg.
That’s about all the Mets have gotten for the $3.5 million they gave to Travis d’Arnaud.