Karpin’s Korner: There’s A Catch (er) For the Mets, Who is the 26th Man?

Mets made a smart gamble by signing Dellin Betances. Despite appearing in only one game last season and yes, he’s a year older, (turns 32 in March) I still think his stuff is electric. Betances has been a good teammate over the years and will fit in well in the Mets clubhouse.

Having watched Betances and having charted his pitches over the years, there are a couple of red flags to look out for.

Betances has a tendency to “fall in love” with his secondary pitch, instead of establishing his blazing fastball to set up the slider. That’s when he gets into trouble. He is not the greatest fielder and has trouble throwing to bases, but his superior strikeout numbers helps make up for that. Betances do try and run on him when there is a runner on base.

With all that in mind, it’s imperative that the Mets bring in a catcher who is a solid defender. I keep bringing this players’ name up because I think he would be a perfect fit for the Mets and that’s the White Sox former starting catcher and now the back up, James McCann.

Last season, McCann was an American League All Star for the first time, but the ChiSox went out and signed free agent Yasmani Grandal. There was some thought that the Sox would hold on to McCann, so they could use Grandal to back up Jose Abreu at first base but that changed when Edwin Encarnacion signed on this week.

McCann is available for a trade and I don’t think it would take an expensive price. The 29-year old signed a one year, $5.4 million dollar deal and is a free agent after the 2020 season. Remember last season when word surfaced that the Mets’ pitchers, particularly Noah Syndergaard, did not like throwing to Wilson Ramos, who, let’s be honest, is deficient defensively.

Can the Mets really expect Ramos to handle the load defensively when that’s not his strong point? They need a catcher who is solid at blocking balls in the dirt, is capable of throwing out potential base stealers and can make the pitchers feel comfortable. In 540 career games caught, McCann has a .996 fielding percentage and has thrown out 36% of potential base stealers. McCann is your man.

The Mets continue to be linked to Pirates CF Starling Marte. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman is reporting that names have been exchanged between the Mets and Pirates regarding a trade for the 31-year old centerfielder.

Reportedly, the Pirates are looking for prospects and maybe a major league ready player who is under control for a couple of years. Infield prospect Andres Gimenez could be dangled as bait but Pittsburgh is seeking an additional prospect and the Mets may not want to go that route.

At this point, the Mets plan on using a platoon of Brandon Nimmo and their newest outfielder, Jake Marisnick, but Marte is a much more dynamic and productive player than either of those two.

The Mets acquired Marisnick from Houston earlier in the off season. New Mets Mgr. Carlos Beltran knows Marisnick, from their days together on the Astros, and feels he can blossom with extended playing time. In the past, when the 28-year old has had more of a chance, he has failed to seize the opportunity. Nimmo is essentially a fourth outfielder who would be better served coming off the bench.

Are teams stacking up on left hand hitters because of the three-batter minimum rule that will be implemented in the upcoming season? A right handed reliever will not be taken out against a left hand hitter if they have not yet pitched to the minimum three batters.

The Marlins just signed left hand hitting OF Corey Dickerson. Arizona brought in left hand hitting OF Kole Calhoun. The Braves retained Nick Markakis at a cheap price while Travis Shaw signed with Toronto and Justin Smoak went to Milwaukee.

Are the Yankees being “left” out? Balancing out the lineup has become more imperative than ever, and the Yankees could use some more left handed hitting.

The roster size is increasing from 25 to 26 players, which presents an intriguing dilemma. How will teams use that extra piece?

Of the 26 players, there will be a limitation of 13 pitchers. Will teams go back to the old ways of carrying a third catcher? That would apply more in the National League where they pinch-hit more often than in the American League.

Angels have spoken with the Pirates about Chris Archer and the Red Sox about David Price. LA is also seeking a catcher and have made inquiries into 37-year old Russell Martin and 36-year old Robinson Chirinos.

Milwaukee is in the market for a catcher and some bench help and may take a flier on Martin.

Karpin’s Korner appears every Friday on nysportsday.com

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