10:10am: The Mets confirmed that Plawecki did indeed suffer a harline fracture in his left hand. Initial X-rays last night were negative, but a Friday morning MRI revealed the break (Twitter link via Newsday’s Tim Healey). He will not require surgery.
There’s been no timeline given on the injury, though SNY’s Steve Gelbs tweets that Plawecki could be out for as little as three weeks. That’d seem to be a surprisingly quick turnaround for a fracture in his catching hand, but if that timeline holds true, then the Mets may not feel much pressure to make a significant catching acquisition.
9:25am: In a staggering stroke of bad luck, the Mets look to have lost their top two catchers in a span of just two days. Mike Puma of the New York Post reports that just a day after Travis d’Arnaud was diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, Kevin Plawecki has been diagnosed with a fractured left hand after being hit by a pitch in last night’s game. Mets manager Mickey Callaway said after last night’s contest that initial X-rays on Plawecki’s hand were negative, though it seems that further testing may have revealed the reported fracture.
Puma adds that veteran Jose Lobaton will join Tomas Nido on the big league roster — he’ll require a 40-man move — though clearly the Mets will be on the lookout for additional options. Miguel Montero jumps to mind as one readily available backstop, as he was only just designated for assignment by the division-rival Nationals earlier this week. When looking at some remaining free agents a couple of weeks ago, I noted that Ryan Hanigan, Derek Norris, Carlos Ruiz and Geovany Soto were also without a contract at the time. (Chris Herrmann and Cameron Rupp, each also listed there, have since signed deals with the Mariners and Rangers.)
The Mets, to the surprise of many, are off to the best start of any team in baseball. Their 10-1 record gives them the best winning percentage of any club in the Majors, and their +24 run differential ranks fourth in the game. Given that excellent start to the season, it seems unlikely that the Mets will be content to merely rely on depth options in the event that Plawecki needs to miss a substantial period of time.
That said, there also aren’t going to be many clubs looking to part with a catcher at this time. J.T. Realmuto was available for much of the offseason, but he’d come with an extremely steep asking price and is currently on the DL with a lower back injury for the division-rival Marlins (though he has begun a minor league rehab assignment).
An intriguing and more plausible fit could be a match with the Red Sox, who opened the year with three catchers — Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart — on the big league roster. Vazquez is the team’s long-term answer after signing an extension this offseason, and the club has previously gone with Leon as a backup option over Swihart, who is out of minor league options and has been relegated to a utility role. A deal for Swihart, once one of the game’s top prospects, would certainly be a more appealing option than piecing the catching corps together with minor league journeymen for the foreseeable future.
Likewise, the Brewers could soon find themselves with three catchers on the roster — two of whom are out of options. Manny Pina has emerged as the starter in Milwaukee over the past year, but backups Jett Bandy and Stephen Vogt are each out of minor league options. A spring shoulder injury for Vogt temporarily delayed an inevitable decision for the Brewers, but Vogt is rehabbing the shoulder and hoping to return before month’s end. It’s not clear that Bandy is a marked upgrade over any internal options the Mets have, but Vogt does have a fairly solid big league track record.
A smaller-scale move to pick up someone such as Rupp from the Rangers could make sense as well. The former Phillies backstop signed a minor league pact there just over a week ago and reported to Triple-A Round Rock, though perhaps the organization would allow him to pursue a big league opportunity elsewhere, or at least consider trading him for cash considerations. The Braves possess some depth in the form of recently outrighted veteran Chris Stewart, and they’ll likely have to remove Carlos Perez from the roster once Tyler Flowers is healthy. The D-backs, meanwhile, are carrying Alex Avila, Jeff Mathis and John Ryan Murphy, though Avila won’t be going anywhere after signing a two-year deal this winter. Colorado’s Tom Murphy is another speculative fit, as he’s been displaced on the big league roster by Chris Iannetta and Tony Wolters. And it might be worthwhile for the Mets to see if the cost-conscious Rays, off to a dreadful start, would part with impending free agent Wilson Ramos.