The Mets and veteran catcher Rene Rivera have agreed to a minor league deal, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter). Rivera, 32, was released by the Rays last month after the Rays decided that Hank Conger and Curt Casali would comprise their primary catching tandem in 2016. The new agreement with New York marks a return to the Mets organization for Rivera, who spent the 2009 season playing with their Triple-A affiliate.
Rivera, a client of MDR Sports Management, is considered to be a premium defensive catcher but also was one of baseball’s worst hitters in 2015 when he batted .178/.213/.275. A minuscule .230 batting average on balls in play contributed heavily to that lack of productivity, but Rivera has never been much of a hitter with the exception of the 2014 season, when he batted .252/.319/.432 in 103 games with the Padres. That year looks like as much (if not more) of an outlier as last season’s woeful campaign, however, and something in the middle — Rivera is a career .211/.258/.331 hitter — is probably a more realistic expectation.
Despite lacking much in the way of offensive upside, Rivera is a standout defender, which is the reason that the Rays stuck with him in 2015. Rivera has halted 38 percent of stolen base attempts against him over the life of his big league career, and he has consistently graded out as a well above-average pitch framer, including a 2014 season in which Baseball Prospectus rated him as the game’s third-best backstop in terms of stealing strikes for his pitchers.
The Mets were said in Spring Training to be on the lookout for a veteran backup catcher, as the club doesn’t like the idea of young Kevin Plawecki playing sparingly in a backup role but also isn’t high on Johnny Monell serving as the primary backup to Travis d’Arnaud. While Rivera’s deal is of the minor league variety, it’s possible that the Mets could eventually promote him to serve as a defensive-minded backup to d’Arnaud while allowing Plawecki to receive everyday at-bats at the minor league level.