The Mets announced this evening that rookie catcher Francisco Álvarez underwent surgery to repair damaged cartilage in his right ankle. The club’s expectation is that’ll be ready for the start of Spring Training.
Álvarez is regarded by prospect evaluators as one of the top young talents in the sport. The 20-year-old backstop (21 next month) combined for a massive .260/.374/.511 line in 495 plate appearances between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Syracuse this season. The Mets rewarded him with a late-season big league call in an attempt to add some right-handed juice to the lineup as they tried to hold off the Braves in the NL East race. Álvarez collected two hits (including a homer) in 12 at-bats down the stretch, and Atlanta seized the division title. New York carried him on the Wild Card series roster against the Padres but only gave him one plate appearance in the loss.
New York certainly views Álvarez as their long-term backstop, but it’s possible he opens next season back in Triple-A. He only started one game behind the dish in the majors, with some reservation among evaluators about his current defensive level. He’s generally expected to remain a catcher long-term, but the Mets could determine he needs a few more reps behind the plate before taking over as a #1 catcher in the majors.
At some point in the not too distant future, however, Álvarez figures to get that longer look. The Mets have veteran James McCann under contract for two more years at a combined $24.3MM. The Mets would presumably welcome an opportunity to shed some of that money after McCann hit only .195/.257/.282 in 61 games this season. They’re not likely to find much trade interest, and McCann is well-regarded enough as a game caller and defender New York seems likelier to wind up keeping him around. He could eventually move into a depth role as Álvarez gains more defensive experience.
Tim Healey of Newsday first reported Álvarez’s surgery before the team announcement.