By Paul West
The Mets are, as the saying goes, playing with house money right now. They’re also, potentially, at an inflection point in their season.
Since losing Max Scherzer, the Mets have had the second-best record in the National League–second only to Atlanta, who remains on their heels despite a red-hot June. They finally lost three in a row in the last week of June, and it was to the Houston Astros, one of the best teams in baseball. They’ve had a historically great 9th inning comeback in the Phillies’ ballpark, they’ve thrown a dramatic no-hitter, they lead the NL in wins, they’ve gone toe to toe with other teams at the top of the MLB standings, and they’re suffused with the aura of a ‘special’ team.
They’d also be wise not to forget how quickly baseball fates can change.
The aforementioned Atlanta team has shrunk the Mets’ lead to four games in the loss column; and while the Mets are anticipating the return of Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, Atlanta will be getting back some injured talent, as well.
Fortunately, the Mets have a potential solution at their fingertips: catcher Francisco Alvarez, who’s spent years near the top of MLB prospect rankings and has spent 2022 destroying the ball in the minor leagues. Alvarez is currently with the double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies, a middling jaunt away, and is regarded by many as an MLB-ready talent; and now is a great time to let him prove it.
Some of the game’s better players began their careers by jumping directly past triple-A: Kyle Schwarber; our very own Francisco Lindor; and, lest we forget, Michael Conforto had an immediate impact when called up to Citi Field in 2014, and was a centerpiece of consecutive playoff runs and an NL pennant.
One of the lingering concerns about Alvarez was that he wasn’t defensively ready for the major leagues; but he just caught Scherzer’s final rehab outing for the Rumble Ponies–and, per Metsmerized Online, he’s becoming a popular battery mate among Mets’ minor league pitchers.
The Mets’ offense has begun to struggle; and while their personnel and plate approach make them unlikely to suffer a prolonged team-wide slump, they could definitely use another run-producing threat. The fact that the top half of their lineup is basically set means Alvarez won’t be asked to carry the offense or slot into a high-pressure role; and he could spend most of his time at DH, rather than be forced to hastily adjust to working with the Mets’ rotation. If he produces, and adjusts quickly behind the plate, he’ll amount to found money and a possible finishing piece; if not, he can be sent back to the minors with another taste of MLB ball and a sense that the Mets are willing to give him his shot. The Mets are in a win-win situation, in which there’s no clear downside to letting Alvarez try to help the team.