Mets want better catching – what options are in play for an upgrade?

In a report for the New York Post, Mike Puma says, “Miguel Olivo and David Ross are among the free-agent options the Mets could pursue” this winter.

In regards to Ross, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution recently said on Twitter the Braves have contacted the agents for Ross and indicated their interest in resigning him.

In addition, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman said yesterday the Mets are more inclined to pursue a catcher via trade than acquiring one via free agency.

Ross, 35, hit .256 with nine home runs and 23 RBI in 196 plate appearances over 62 games with the Braves in 2012. He just completed a two-year, $3.25 million deal he signed with Atlanta before the 2011 season.

In 87 games for the Mariners in 2012, Olivo, 34, hit .222 with a .239 OBP, 11 home runs and 29 RBI with 87 strikeouts in 323 plate appearances over 87 games. He signed a two-year, $7 million contract before the 2011 season. The Mariners held a $3 million option on Olivo for 2013, but they recently announced they would decline the option, making him a free agent.

Meanwhile, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post believes A.J. Pierzynski will sign a two-year, $10 million contract this winter, although he predicts the Mariners will be his new home if he does not return to the White Sox.

Pierzynski, who will be 36 on Opening Day, hit .278 with 27 home runs and 77 RBI in 135 games for the White Sox in 2012. He just completed a two-year, $8 million contract he signed before the 2011 season.

Puma says it’s still possible the Mets could retain Shoppach, but the team would like to search for an upgrade first. And so, Joel Sherman of the Post recently said it was unlikely the Mets would bring Shoppach back next season.

Yesterday, the Mets removed Mike Nickeas from the 40-man roster, and sent him to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Michael Baron, Contributor

Ross is probably one of the best secondary catchers around, and he would most certainly be the number one catcher for the Mets if he were to sign with them. He could be in a straight platoon with Josh Thole, and Thole could also serve as R.A. Dickey’s personal catcher if the Mets retain Dickey. That could serve to protect from overexposing Ross, and ensure Thole only plays against right-handed pitching. However, Ross hit nearly 30 points higher against right-handed pitching in 2012, and so its questionable as to whether or not a platoon plays to Ross’ strengths. But even after taking all of that into account, it makes sense for Ross to want to go back to the Braves at the moment. Why? Because he is likely to start for the Braves – at least at the beginning of the season – with Brian McCann expected to miss 4-6 months after undergoing shoulder surgery.

As far as Olivo goes, I’d rather have Shoppach. He’s just better than Olivo at this point. During August and September, Shoppach was praised for his work with the pitching staff, most notably with the bullpen and getting them to pitch inside more. In turn, the results out of the bullpen improved. Neither Shoppach or Olivo are going to be dynamic offensive players, but Olivo strikes out a ton and hardly ever walks, which doesn’t exactly speak to the approach the organization is trying to preach.

One thing is certain: as is the case with a lot of teams, the Mets need to go outside the organization to find a catcher, and there aren’t a lot of particularly intriguing options for them to choose from. But they need to find somebody who is fundamentally sound, has a strong reputation with young pitchers all while getting at least serviceable offensive production. That’s hard to find without budget constraints, let alone for the Mets who need to be creative when upgrading at the position this winter. Sandy Alderson could look to move salaries in order to give him the room to make a significant upgrade (that goes for catcher as well as the outfield), but it remains to be seen if that can and is going to happen.