d’Arnaud Gives Mets Player to Build Around

With news of the R.A. Dickey trade coming to fruition, the New York Mets organization will reportedly acquire the best catching prospect in baseball (narrowly edging Seattle’s Mike Zunino). Prior to the 2012 season, I ranked d’Arnaud as the 37th best prospect in baseball on FanGraphs’ Top 100 Prospects list — behind fellow catchers Jesus Montero (13th overall, and term used loosely) and Devin Mesoraco (17th), and just ahead of Yasmani Grandal (40th). All three of those catchers graduated to the majors in 2012; d’Arnaud definitely will be moving up on the Top 100 list that will be coming out this March, even after missing most of the second half of the season thanks to a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

The California native was also the top prospect in Toronto’s system when I released the Jays Top 15 Prospects list about a month ago. He has the potential to develop a plus bat (for a catcher) with average power. Defensively, he should be at least average and has a solid chance of becoming above average behind the dish. In other words, he should be a big upgrade over incumbent Josh Thole, who is coming off of a tough year and was reportedly flipped to Toronto in the deal. I did note, though, that when I’ve seen d’Arnaud play he’s looked like a “low energy” guy, or perhaps reserved is a better word. Despite that, all reports suggest he’s a good leader.

d’Arnaud immediately becomes the best hitting prospect in New York’s system and will challenge Zack Wheeler for the best overall prospect when I start breaking down the Mets’ Top 15 Prospects list early in the new year. With the trade of Thole, the catching prospect could open 2013 in the majors as the club’s starting backstop, although it probably wouldn’t hurt for him to receive a few extra months of seasoning back in triple-A, considering the missed time in 2012.

Although Jays fans will no doubt be saddened by the lose of the d’Arnaud, the organization is dealing from a position of strength and still has two catchers remaining on the Top 15 list in A.J. Jimenez (8th overall) and Santiago Nessy (10th). Jimenez is a defensive whiz with a fringe-average bat (for a catcher) who underwent Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow but should be ready to play in April or May. He could be assigned to either double-A (a return engagement) or triple-A at that time. Nessy is a young, big-dollar-signee with big-time power out of the Dominican Republic and will play in full-season ball for the first time in 2013. He’s a ways away from helping out the big league club but also flashes solid defense.

In an effort to strengthen the depth in the bullpen, Toronto traded utility player and third-string catcher Yan Gomes to Cleveland earlier in the off-season for Esmil Rogers so the catching depth in the upper levels of the system takes a bit of a hit and would be somewhat worrisome should an injury occur to either J.P. Arencibia or Thole . The club claimed on waivers two catchers with big league experience this off-season in Bobby Wilson and Eli Whiteside but both were subsequently claimed when Toronto attempted to slip them back through waivers to free up some space on the 40-man roster.

The trade of d’Arnaud did not shock me. When I spoke to a club official about him earlier in the off-season, I got the feeling he was viewed as expendable… for the right price. Toronto’s starting catcher of the present and foreseeable future, Arencibia, is not a great offensive player but he shows above-average power (when bat meets ball). I’ve been told that the organization values him for his clubhouse presence, dedication to his craft and rapport with the pitching staff.

This deal has a very good shot at being good for both organizations as it positions Toronto very well to make a run at the American League East title or one of the wild card slots. It allows the Mets to continue building for the future and gives the organization an offensive player to go with some of its impressive young arms.




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


49 Responses to “d’Arnaud Gives Mets Player to Build Around”

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  1. Geoff says:

    As a Jays fan, I would have preferred to see another decent bat in the lineup. This still obviously improves our team this year but we appear to be that team that has 5 #2 or #3 starters as opposed to a legit ace. Although I could be completely wrong and Dickey could match last season’s display.

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    • Marc Hulet says:

      No. 2 starters don’t exactly grow on trees… I think I’d rather have 3 No. 2s than one No. 1….

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      • Antonio bananas says:

        Travis Woods a Kerry Woods grow on trees…

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      • fjtorres says:

        With two wild cards in play, deep depth is more likely to get you a division title than just a playoff slot. And a team that needs to burn its ace to get past the wild card game would find itself dependent on its 2&3 to survive the Division series.
        The new rules boost the value of winning the division outright so winning every last game with the tail-end of the rotation could make all the difference.

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      • BronxBomber says:

        Absolutely, until you have to win a game seven. Granted, that’s a problem most teams would love to have, and yes I realize that there likely is no game seven unless you have at least one more good starter.

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    • will says:

      How does this Jays team need another bat? Their lineup is stacked, and deep. Bautista, Reyes, Melky (don’t forget he was part of the NL MVP conversation before the suspension), Encarnacion (monster 2012), Lawrie, Arrencibia (plus bat for a catcher). That’s an amazing top 6. Throw in some combination of Adam Lind, Colby Rasmus (who I believe in), Rajai Davis, Bonifacio, and Izturis. That’s an extremely useful crew of role/bench players. As this team is going all-out, they could try to sign adam laroche, but I don’t think that’s necessary.

      Couple this lineup with great starting pitching (plus JA Happ as a 6th starter and a more than capable injury relief), and this team is going places.

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      • Radivel says:

        Arencibia does not have a plus bat, even for a catcher. He hits it hard, but not often. He swings a lot, doesn’t walk. JPA is serviceable, but good? The Jays are crossing their fingers that he does better this year.

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      • Geoff says:

        Melky – hmm, how much of his performance was possibly tainted?
        E5 – expected regression.
        Reyes – how many games will he play?
        Bautista – can’t argue here.
        Lawrie – hoping for strides this season.
        Arencibia – not a plus bat.

        A lot of ifs in the batting lineup, that’s all. Rotation was relatively deep before Dickey. I think a solid bat would have had a bigger impact for this team.

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      • By wRC+, Arencibia ranked 20th out of 28 catchers with 300 or more PA’s.

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      • nilbog44 says:

        I dunno If I would say JP has a “plus bat.”

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      • commenter says:

        additional comment regarding JP Arencibia

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      • Ruki Motomiya says:

        Melky is too big of a question mark to be considered part of a stacked lineup.

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      • Cidron says:

        It may regress in some places, but given the depth, the regression will be minimized as the “regressers” sit, or play less in favor of the studs and those having break out years.

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      • Brian says:

        Depending on where EE plays, the Jays either have no one suitable to 1B or no one suitable to DH. Either way, they could really stand to pick up a suitable bat.

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    • Radivel says:

      Dickey certainly feels like a legit ace at this point to me, and there are all sorts of articles about statistical analysis and trends for knuckleball pitchers that show he isn’t expected to regress greatly for some time. I’m excited about having him be a part of my favorite team.

      Greinke, for 6 years, is receiving 5x as much money as Dickey is for 3 years. Compare stats over the last three years…

      R.A. Dickey, 2010–2012: 91 starts, 617 IP, 2.95 ERA, 468 Ks, 150 walks
      Zack Greinke, 2010–2012: 95 starts, 604 IP, 3.83 ERA, 582 Ks, 154 walks

      But yet, Greinke’s average annual salary is about 2.5x that of Dickeys.

      Any way you cut it, that’s a bargain of a contract for the Jays, even after the prospect cost.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        I agree that he feels like an ace. From ’10 until the beginning of ’12, he was a very good pitcher. From the moment he started throwing the hard knuckleball, he became and elite pitcher.

        I’d also have to think that the dome would help him out, as they can either open or close the roof whenever he starts (depending on his preference).

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      • joser says:

        The dome is an interesting question. The fantastic New Yorker article on knuckleballers* said

        Most knucklers agree that wind in the face is good (anything to add resistance and turbulence), while wind blowing from behind spells doom. Heat and humidity are welcome, unless you’re pitching in a dome; for whatever reason, the consensus seems to be that central air-conditioning can work wonders. Boston’s Doug Mirabelli, who catches Wakefield exclusively (knucklers often get their own personal backstops), has observed that the SkyDome in Toronto causes an extra hiccup per pitch.

        Of course Dickey throws an “angry” knuckleball that apparently is rather different from the classic, so he may have a different opinion. (I wonder what he thought of roof open vs closed in Miami?)

        * from a few years back, so while the discussion about the art is eternal, the details have changed a bit. Dickey only pops up at the end.

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      • Geoff says:

        Thanks Brian, that was my whole point. At this point Lind will probably be given a shot and he did have a decent run last year after a stint in the minors but I’m not sold on him.

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    • Eminor3rd says:

      Why is everyone pretending Dickey didn’t JUST win the NL Cy Young?

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      • Bip says:

        Why are others pretending that he isn’t 38, doesn’t throw a unique version of a pitch that is extremely difficult to analyze when thrown normally, that he isn’t missing a ligament, and that he didn’t experience a dramatic spike in strikeout rate this year. That’s a whole helping of factors that confound our ability to project Dickey’s performance, so it’s totally defensible that people treat Dickey as less of a sure thing than other less unique pitchers.

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      • Cidron says:

        Alot of people have problems with the combination of “knuckleball” and “ace” together in the same sentence.

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    • ZenMadman says:

      Dude, Dickey is a legit ace. He didn’t just have a great year. He actually got better by pitching differently. And he’s awesome in a dome.

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  2. MajorDanby says:

    no mention of john buck with j.p and thole?

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  3. Marc Hulet says:

    Buck — an older, more expensive version of Arencibia — could be the No. 1 guy in NY until d’Arnaud is ready and then shift to a backup role.

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  4. vivalajeter says:

    Marc,

    How does d’Arnaud compare as a prospect to Posey and Salty (just before they were called up)? Are/were they all comparably rated, where Posey reached his ceiling and Salty is scraping the floor, or was Posey light years ahead of the others?

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  5. joser says:

    d’Arnaud is old for a prospect… except that he’s a catcher. And he has a lot of injuries…which wouldn’t be so worrisome except that he’s a catcher. Even if the back troubles (2010) don’t recur, and the knee injury (2012) was a fluke, there are the two concussions (2011) to consider — again, a bigger red flag precisely because he’s a catcher. It may prove to be all behind him, but it has to throw a bit of a pall over his evaluation right now, doesn’t it?

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    • Angus Archer says:

      It is pretty universally known–probably empirically proven, if I were not so lazy–that catchers require more time to develop. Pudge Rodriguez was not a solid contributor until his late twenties; Mike Piazza didn’t get his first season under his belt until he was 25 – same with Napoli. Buster Posey didn’t break through until he was 23.

      Even a one-in-a-generation talent like Joe Mauer who is major league ready just out of high school was still sent to the Minors for 2.5 years by the twins. Catchers are just treated differently as prospects.

      D’Arnaud is not an old prospect, he is one with several years of development under his belt. He is almost major league ready.

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    • joser says:

      Right, which is why I caveated the “old” part with “except that he’s a catcher.” And then spent the rest of my comment talking about the injuries, because I consider that a much bigger red flag. I don’t know why you spent all of your comment taking issue with something I agreed with.

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  6. Brooks says:

    D’Arnaud didn’t have surgery on the knee.

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  7. hildebeast21 says:

    I like this trade for the Jays because they’re in win-now mode and I believe that Dickey is a legitimate ace. Ace means top 30 starting pitchers in major league baseball. Expected, of course. I find it easy to argue that he is one of the top starting pitchers in baseball over the last three seasons. And of course what you did yesterday doesn’t really matter tomorrow, but I see no obvious reason why he can’t continue to be successful the way he has been since 2009. D’Arnaud has a lot of upside but is also a 24-year old prospect hitting like mad in a mad-hitting city (Vegas). My main concern as a Jays fan is that it leaves JPA as the main catcher without alternative. He’s league-average at best. I would’ve prefer the team keep Buck in the deal.

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    • Radivel says:

      Where did you get this definition of “ace” from? Best pitcher on each team? Does this make Wandy an ace, or how about.. uh.. the guy not named Stanton that didn’t get traded from the Marlins?

      Dickey is a #1 starter, an “ace” if there is a real definition for it I suppose, but not because he’s one fo the 30 best in the league.

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      • Bip says:

        Though I don’t use wins as a measurement of pitcher value — as should be obvious by the very fact I’m posting on this site — for some reason I feel comfortable using it to define an ace. For a while now, 20 wins has been a commonly used benchmark to classify elite pitching seasons. So, going along those lines, I would say an ace is a pitcher who, given a decent to good offense, defense, luck and bullpen, could reasonably be expected to win 20 games. This is obviously independent of whether a pitcher has actually won 20 games, but I think we all have a good image of the kind of guy who might be described as a “potential 20 game winner”. I don’t think this is the best way to define an ace, and yet, I think this gets the idea across well enough.

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      • Eric says:

        Dickey was one of the three best pitchers in all of MLB last year period. He lead the NL in CG and SHO for crying out loud. He’s been especially durable and pitched through minor injuries this past season or he might have even had better stats.

        A 2.95 ERA and 600+ innings the next 3 seasons is as reasonable to expect as any good 30 year old pitcher. In fact, I might even have MORE of a confidence in a 38 year old knuckleballer holding up for 3 years than a 28 year old flamethrower with 6 full years of major league service.

        Why people think that knuckleballers can’t pitch past 40 when every good knunckleballer has, and has pitched well, is beyond me….

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  8. FieryFurnaces says:

    This is good good deal for Blue Jays. I am very interested to see who the other 2 players are going to be. Maybe Mets can get Chase to play short.

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  9. Robbie G. says:

    Who finishes last in the AL East in 2013? And will this team last place finisher be above or below .500?

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    • Radivel says:

      The Orioles finish last, with a sub .500 record – they can’t pay the Baseball Wizard twice in a row. The Red Sox will compete with them for last, but the Sox should be able to hit their way to 4th place.

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    • Eric says:

      Not every team in the AL EAST can be good. Boston (mediocre pitching), and Baltimore (see Boston) will battle it out for the doormat, both playing under .500 baseball. TB, TOR, and NYY all have superior pitching/offense.

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  10. Bip says:

    I wonder if both the wildcards will come from the East this year. I feel like that must have been part of the reason for adding another wildcard, that the third best team in the AL East would probably have a good chance of winning the other divisions. On the other hand, with the Angels getting stronger and Houston coming to their division, it should be easier for them to win games, meaning a potential third place finisher in the East will have to compete with them and/or Texas. And of course we can’t count out Oakland.

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  11. Rags says:

    So the mets non-elite prospect is Nickeas? Is this the first time two catchers have been traded for two other catchers?

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  12. timtebow says:

    what exactly do you mean by low energy? I’m a mets fan, and that sounds like something that could be concerning.

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  13. inevitable says:

    around which to build*

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