Indians Acquire Catcher Plawecki from Mets

The Cleveland Indians addressed a roster concern on Sunday afternoon, acquiring catcher Kevin Plawecki from the New York Mets for right-handed pitcher Walker Lockett and minor league utility man Sam Haggerty.

The Indians’ catching position moved from one of depth to an area of concern in a span of less than six months as the team used backstops to address organizational issues. Top prospect Francisco Mejia was traded to the San Diego Padres on July 31 for two relievers – All-Star closer Brad Hand and submariner Adam Cimber. On November 30, the team purged salary by moving 2018 All-Star catcher Yan Gomes to the Washington Nationals for reliever Jefry Rodriguez and minor leaguers Daniel Johnson and Andruw Monasterio.

Cleveland’s addition of Plawecki gives the club a little more experience behind the plate. After moving Mejia and Gomes, the Indians were left with light-hitting veteran Roberto Perez and rookie Eric Haase on the 40-man roster, with no depth on the horizon in the team’s farm system. Rather than to spend money on the free agent market, where full-time or part-time names like Drew Butera, A.J. Ellis, Yasmani Grandal, Nick Hundley, Caleb Joseph, Martin Maldonado, Devin Mesoraco, Rene Rivera, Stephen Vogt, and Matt Wieters remain available, the Tribe’s front office opted to add to the team via trade a former three-time Mets Organization All-Star behind the plate.

Plawecki, 27, is a former first round pick who has yet to live up to the high pick billing that came with his selection out of Purdue in the 2012 draft, when the Mets took him with the 35th overall selection. He set new personal bests in a career-high 79 games of work for the Mets in 2018, slashing .210/.315/.370 with 13 doubles, two triples, seven homers, and 30 RBI. The run production and extra base hit totals all established new high water marks in his four years in the Majors. He missed a month and a half early in the season when he landed on the 10-day disabled list with a left hand fracture.

He owns a .218/.308/.330 career slash with 14 homers and 75 RBI over 237 games. His best average, on-base, and slugging marks (.260/.364/.400) all came during a 2017 season that was limited to just 37 games as he spent the bulk of his time at Triple-A Las Vegas.

Plawecki – Getty Images

Plawecki’s offensive marks may leave something to be desired, but the defensive side of his game also comes with some concerns. He owns a career caught stealing mark of 23%, a figure that he matched with his production in 2018. That number was well below average among MLB catchers. He has been able to limit passed balls, allowing just five in 1,765 innings of big league work.

“We’re excited to add Kevin to our Major League catching mix,” said Cleveland president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti about the move. “The guy has earned a reputation as a really good teammate, a good receiver, and leads a pitching staff really well.”

A trade with the Mets seemed a little more likely after Saturday, when New York dealt for Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Keon Broxton. That trade gave the Mets a surplus of MLB outfielders on the roster, as Broxton joined Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Juan Lagares, and Brandon Nimmo. Instead, the Mets cleared some of the logjam on the 40-man roster at the catching position that was created after New York signed free agent Wilson Ramos to a two-year, $19 million deal in December. That addition made for four different backstops on the 40-man, including Ramos, Plawecki, Travis d’Arnaud, and Tomas Nido. d’Arnaud is expected back sometime during the 2019 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery in the middle of April last season.

The Mets have been active over the weekend. In addition to acquiring Broxton and moving Plawecki, the team picked up infielder J.D. Davis from the Houston Astros in a five-player swap.

To acquire Plawecki, the Indians sent the right-hander Lockett and the infield prospect Haggerty to Queens.

Lockett was added to the Cleveland organization in November when he was picked up in a minor trade with the Padres after appearing in his first four MLB games in 2018. He went 0-3 in three starts and one relief appearance with a 9.60 ERA and a 2.13 WHIP for San Diego and 5-9 in 23 starts with a 4.72 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP for Triple-A El Paso in 2018. The 24-year-old was a fourth round pick in the 2012 draft and has spent the majority of his professional career outside of the Arizona League working as a starting pitcher in the Padres organization.

Haggerty, also 24, is a former 24th round pick out of New Mexico by the Indians in 2015 who completed his fourth season in the organization last year. A switch-hitting, defense-first utility man who can play some outfield, Haggerty has climbed through the Indians farm system, spending last season with Double-A Akron (87 games) and Triple-A Columbus (seven games), putting up a .239/.369/.384 slash in his 94 total games with 21 doubles, five triples, four homers, 39 RBI, and 26 stolen bases. He is a speed threat, hitting 13 triples and stealing 49 bases in 112 games with High-A Lynchburg during his Carolina League All-Star season in 2017.

The Indians’ 40-man roster remains at 38 with Lockett leaving the roster and Plawecki replacing him. The roster is composed of 20 pitchers and 18 position players.

Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

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