The Mets are telling teams they’re open to dealing Omar Narváez, tweets Mike Puma of the New York Post. It’s unclear whether any clubs are interested in the left-handed hitting catcher, although the Mets would very likely have to pay down some portion of his contract to facilitate a move.
It’s the second straight offseason in which New York is looking to move a veteran catcher fairly early into a free agent deal. The Mets surprisingly guaranteed Narváez $15MM over two seasons. He made $8MM last year and had a $7MM player option for 2024. The Narváez pickup led the Mets to cut bait on James McCann two seasons into a four-year, $40MM pact. New York paid all but $5MM of the $24MM remaining on McCann’s deal to offload him to the Orioles.
The Narváez signing wasn’t as costly as the McCann acquisition. It started similarly poorly, however. Narváez suffered a significant strain of his left calf within the season’s first two weeks. He was sidelined into June. By the time he returned, rookie Francisco Álvarez had taken over as the starter. Narváez was pushed into a depth role and didn’t perform well.
In 49 games, Narváez hit .211/.283/.297 with a pair of home runs. That’s on the heels of a similarly underwhelming .206/.292/.305 line in 296 plate appearances for the Brewers in 2022. Narváez had a solid ’21 campaign (.266/.342/.402 over 445 trips to the plate) but has been a well below-average hitter in three of the past four seasons. It’s a notable step back from 2017-19, when Narváez was somewhat quietly one of the better offensive catchers in MLB.
To his credit, the eight-year veteran has generally improved behind the plate as his numbers at the dish have regressed. Statcast graded Narváez as an above-average pitch framer each season from 2020-22. That reflected a seemingly concerted effort to improve his receiving after being traded from the Mariners to Milwaukee going into the 2020 season. Narváez has never had a great throwing arm, though, which opponents exploited with more favorable baserunning rules last year. He threw out only six of 52 stolen base attempts, an 11.5% success rate that was well off the 19.8% league average.
Between the calf injury and a replacement-level performance, Narváez had an easy decision to exercise his player option. While his path to playing time in Queens is limited, he wouldn’t have found a $7MM contract if he returned to free agency. It’s hard to envision another team taking the full salary in trade either, but the Mets haven’t had many qualms about paying down contracts. They’ve done so with back-of-the-roster players like McCann and Eduardo Escobar and in blockbuster transactions involving Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.
President of baseball operations David Stearns wasn’t involved in the decision to sign Narváez, although he’s familiar with the player from their time in Milwaukee. One of Stearns’ first moves with the Mets was to claim Tyler Heineman off waivers from the Blue Jays. He joins Álvarez and Narváez as the three catchers on the 40-man roster.
Tomás Nido, who has played parts of seven MLB seasons as a Met, remains in the organization after being outrighted in June (a move that coincided with Narváez’s return from the calf strain). Nido hit .281/.336/.393 in 39 games at Triple-A Syracuse after clearing waivers. He’ll make $2.1MM next season as part of a two-year deal he signed to avoid arbitration last offseason.