Being raised in New York Mets fan, I gradually lost my affinity for the team once Darryl Strawberry donned Dodger blue. Should the Mets acquire catcher Travis D’Arnaud and center fielder Anthony Gose from the Toronto Blue Jays, it may rekindle the love I once had for the blue and orange.
Back in 1994, my family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee. A subplot of our move was to showcase my baseball talents in front of college coaches from the southeast. I headed into my senior year on the radar of the University of Tennessee Volunteers, R.A. Dickey‘s college team. Dickey, one of the best pitchers in the nation, was used liberally by head coach Rod Delmonico. The right-hander would throw a complete-game on Friday night and earn the save on Sunday afternoon.On a recruiting visit, Coach Delmonico brought me down to the locker room prior to a conference game against Arkansas if I remember correctly. None of the players acknowledged my existence other than Dickey. In a moment made for a Thursday night sitcom, Dickey walked by me and tossed his shower towel onto my shoulder as if I were the towel boy. It was a reminder of just how far away I was from being a Tennessee Volunteer. And while I didn’t end up signing with Tennessee, I continued to follow Dickey’s career loosely.
From being a first round pick, to the Rangers finding Dickey was missing an elbow ligament, to his rebirth as a knuckleball pitcher, the ups and downs were extreme. For the Mets, Dickey’s transformation from minor-league free-agent to premium trade chip in the acquisition two potential franchise cornerstones must rank him as one of the most valuable Mets in team history.
As for Gose and D’Arnaud, my first look at the pair was with the Lakeland Blue Claws of the South Atlantic League. And while 2009 seems like an eternity ago, I’ve yet to see a better all-around catching prospect or better tools from center field prospect since. Readers may be taken aback by my reference to the pair as franchise cornerstones, but I believe this to be true.
Adding Gose solves the Mets center field dilemma for a number of years. It’s likely Gose will struggle at the plate early on, but his profile of speed and plus defense will allow for positive value while he adjusts to major-league pitching. Add to this his ability to draw walks at a league average pace and what’s left is a higher floor than prospect followers focusing on his lack of polish give him credit for. If Cameron Maybin was worth 2.7 WAR behind a .656 OPS and plus defense in 2012, Gose can be as valuable.
The last above average catcher to take the field for the Mets was Paul Lo Duca in 2006. At the time, former first-round pick D’Arnaud was a junior in high school. After posting a combined .938 OPS in Double-A and Triple-A, he has nothing left to prove at the minor league level. Add to this a strong defensive profile and what I perceive as the advanced ability to manage a pitching and D’Arnaud will be the best Mets catcher since future Hall Of Famer Mike Piazza.
If this deal if finalized, I commend the Blue Jays for going all in a year when the American League East should be down. However, this trade is a coup for the Mets organization. At present, they have no catcher or center field prospect to label as the “player of the future” (Brandon Nimmo projects as a corner outfielder). If the Mets fill multiple up-the-middle holes in a single deal, consider the corner turned and expect the Mets to begin working their way back up the National League East food chain.