It’s already known that the Athletics have checked in on free-agent catcher Russell Martin. Add the Mets “and a few other teams” to the list, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets. As Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported two weeks ago, Martin has turned down offers since last season to deal with a “family matter,” but the 37-year-old does intend to continue his career in 2020.
It’s unknown how recent the Mets’ interest in Martin was, but it does look as if the team could use a competent veteran to team with starter Wilson Ramos. Martin happens to be far and away the best backstop remaining in free agency, where available players at his position are all but nonexistent at this point. Martin appeared in a career-low 83 games with the Dodgers in 2019, but he posted 1.2 fWAR with a .220/.337/.330 line and an above-average 12 percent walk rate in 249 plate appearances. He also kept up his eminently useful ways behind the late, where he finished both 17th among all catchers in Baseball Prospectus’ Fielding Runs Above Average metric and as a pitch framer.
Mets backup Tomas Nido was similarly impressive as a defender last season (19th in FRAA and as a framer), but his offense doesn’t compare to even that of an aging Martin. The 25-year-old Nido has basically been unplayable as a hitter since he began garnering a decent chunk of playing time two seasons ago, having batted .182/.219/.286 in 234 trips to the plate dating back to 2018.
Behind Ramos and Nido, the most established option in the New York organization is non-roster invitee Rene Rivera, who – despite having earned the trust of prominent right-hander Noah Syndergaard in the past – has never been much of an offensive threat in the majors. He also hasn’t seen much time in the bigs over the past couple years. The Mets’ backup catcher situation looks ripe for an upgrade, then, and Martin may be the one to provide it.