Mets' confidence in d'Arnaud speaks volumes

Mets' confidence in d'Arnaud speaks volumes

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- When Matt Wieters agreed to terms Monday on a two-year contract with the Nationals, according to multiple sources, it stamped out any lingering speculation that Wieters could, despite all evidence to the contrary, join the Mets.

Since the dawn of the offseason, Mets officials have said openly and often that they had little interest in Wieters, a free agent who wound up grabbing $21 million from the Nats. A four-time All-Star over eight seasons in Baltimore, Wieters represented an upgrade on paper over Travis d'Arnaud, the Mets' incumbent catcher who has struggled through years' worth of injuries and ineffectiveness.

But the Mets never actively pursued Wieters, who actually sports a lower OPS the past two seasons (.723) than d'Arnaud (.725). The reason? They feel the 30-year-old Wieters has already hit his peak, while the 28-year-old d'Arnaud has room to grow both offensively and defensively. They also know d'Arnaud will look to do so on a $1.875-million non-guaranteed salary, a fraction of what the Nationals will pay Wieters.

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For the Mets, then, keeping d'Arnaud was an easy choice.

"For them to back me up like that means a lot," d'Arnaud said. "I definitely worked harder to prove them right, to show them that I do care about it. I want to be here, to help this team get to the World Series and win it all."

Not only did the Mets stick with d'Arnaud this winter, they also reinforced him. Hiring Glenn Sherlock as their new third-base coach and catching instructor gave d'Arnaud the type of mentor he has not had since former bench coach Bob Geren left for Los Angeles. Sherlock met with d'Arnaud both in Arizona and Southern California this winter, planting the roots for the type of work they now do daily at Mets camp.

Primarily, Sherlock is helping d'Arnaud improve his footwork and throwing, in an effort to become a more well-rounded defender. The idea is that by thriving defensively, d'Arnaud will grow relaxed enough to unlock the offensive potential he demonstrated as recently as 2015, clubbing 12 homers with an .825 OPS in 268 plate appearances.

"He's been great," Sherlock said. "He's very excited. He's been focused, getting out there early, and we've been doing our work."

With Wieters out of the picture, d'Arnaud can do that work without looking over his shoulder. Of the other catchers in big league camp, Rene Rivera is a solid backup but not the Mets' top choice to start games. Kevin Plawecki has done little to distinguish himself despite multiple chances. No. 11 prospect Tomas Nido is intriguing, but he's at least a year away from the Majors.

That leaves a wide-open opportunity behind the plate for d'Arnaud -- one more chance to make good on his potential.

"If you're a player and your front office and your manager support you and believe in you, you'd better have a good feeling about yourself," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "When you talk to Travis, you say, 'Hey look, when you first came here, everybody talked about potential, potential. We've seen it in action, so we know it's in there. We've just got to get it back out.'"

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.