NEW YORK – Needing to make a difficult decision at catcher, the New York Mets cut light-hitting Tomás Nido on Monday when they reinstated fellow backstop Omar Narváez from the 60-day injured list.
Nido was designated for assignment in a move that keeps catcher Francisco Álvarez in the majors. The 21-year-old rookie flourished in May and ascended to first string, taking advantage of consistent playing time while Narváez and Nido were on the IL.
Nido was activated May 25 but has made only two starts since, going 1 for 5 with two strikeouts. He was a Gold Glove finalist last season and is signed through 2024 after essentially taking over the starting job from a slumping James McCann last year by the time the Mets entered the playoffs.
This season, however, Nido is batting a paltry .125 (7 for 56) without an extra-base hit.
New York has seven days to trade or release him. The 29-year-old Nido could also be claimed by another team – or accept an outright assignment to the minors with the Mets if he clears waivers.
With the 31-year-old Narváez ready to return from a strained left calf, New York could have optioned Álvarez back to Triple-A Syracuse and kept all three catchers on the 40-man roster. More likely, there was thought the Mets might carry them all in the big leagues and give at-bats to Álvarez at designated hitter. That would have cut into playing time for several veterans, however, along with fellow youngster Mark Vientos.
Complicating the situation a bit, it’s a little unclear right now what Nido is capable of providing offensively. He’s never been a dangerous hitter, compiling a .213 batting average and .557 OPS primarily in backup duty over 274 games in seven major league seasons. But he was on the injured list from May 7-24 with dry eye syndrome that apparently affected his vision, possibly explaining – at least in part – his dreadful start at the plate this season.
He had plugs placed in both eyes that help them remain lubricated and improve his sight. Nido is a right-handed hitter like Álvarez, though. Narváez, an All-Star in 2021 with Milwaukee, bats left-handed, making him a more natural complement.
One of baseball’s top-rated prospects when he began the year in the minors, Álvarez was expected to gain more seasoning at Triple-A while Narváez and Nido shared playing time in the big leagues.
But then Álvarez was quickly called up in early April when Narváez strained his left calf during the second series of the season in Milwaukee.
Álvarez got off to a slow start, then took off in May – batting .292 with seven homers, 17 RBIs and a 1.029 OPS, including several clutch swings late in games. He is hitless in his past 16 at-bats, but Álvarez’s raw power is an element sorely needed by the scuffling Mets as they attempt to generate more runs.
His defense was said to be a work in progress when he arrived, but Álvarez has impressed behind the plate, too, earning praise from coaches and veteran pitchers – particularly three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer – for his instincts and work ethic.
Nido signed a $3.7 million, two-year contract in the offseason. Narváez was signed to a $15 million, two-year deal as a free agent in December.
Despite a record $355 million payroll, the Mets are off to a disappointing 30-30 start. They were off Monday before opening a three-game series Tuesday night in Atlanta. New York is third in the NL East, 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Braves.