- Born June 19, 1988 in Punxsutawney, PA.
- Signed a 4 year contract pact with the Reds worth 25 million dollars.
- One All Star appearance in 2014.
- After serious injuries to both hips, Mesoraco has played in only 95 games over three season.
- Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 1st round of the 2007 draft out of Punxsutawney HS.
- Debut: September 3, 2011.
- Exceeded rookie limits during 2012 season.
- Free agency in 2019.
The Reds Saga of Devin Mesoraco has been long and winding. Once an up-and-coming top prospect, the Reds chose Mesoraco as “Catcher of the Future” when they included fellow first round, up-and-coming catching prospect Yasmani Grandal in a deal with the Padres that netted Mat Latos in 2011.
Assuming it was ever as “one or the other” as it felt at the time, I guess you could say that the Reds chose... poorly. Mesoraco struggled to carve out a meaningful role behind Ryan Hanigan the next season while also landing in manager Dusty Baker’s doghouse on several occasions. He played more in 2013, but not really better, and probably only because Hanigan’s 32-year-old catching body caught up to him.
Mesoraco, of course, broke out in a big way in 2014, batting .273/.359/.534 while mashing 25 taters and earning an All Star bid. That season somewhat unfortunately foreshadowed the negative to come, however, as even in that breakout season, Mesoraco found himself on the disabled list on occasion.
The rest of the story is sufficiently documented. After inking an extension that offseason, every labrum in Mesoraco’s body turned to dust. After having both hip labrums (labri?) reconstructed, Devin also had to have one in his shoulder fixed, too. From 2015 through 2017, Mesoraco has been healthy enough to play in only 95 games in three seasons. Which is, uh, sub-optimal for the Reds and the $28 million they’re shelling out.
Grandal, by the way, struggled out of the gate in his Major League career, getting a PED suspension and also tearing an ACL. Since then, however, Grandal’s been anywhere between above average to great, earning an All Star spot himself in 2015. Maybe most notably, from 2015 through 2017, Grandal has averaged 123 games a season at a cost of only about $9 million.
Both will become free agents after the 2018 season.
I guess it’s not fair to say that the Reds made the wrong decision in 2011, or even 2014. Unless you were a particular fan of one or the other, the choice between the two always seemed like a toss up. The decision was ultimately unfortunate for the Reds, to be sure.
And somewhat all of the sudden, the narrative around Mesoraco has changed dramatically this offseason. We’ve spent three seasons wondering when he’d be back, what he’d look like when he got back, and then if he’d ever be the same.
But over the course of a season, a new leader at catcher in the clubhouse emerged. Tucker Barnhart turned into a 3.4 bWAR player in 2017, won a Gold Glove, and then got rewarded with a contract extension of his own. Mesoraco didn’t become an afterthought overnight, necessarily, but his ever awaited “return” has become much less consequential for the Reds.
It’s Tucker Barnhart’s job moving forward.
Which means Devin Mesoraco, once the future, is forced into an entirely different role in his final season under contract. Assuming Barnhart is healthy and productive, Devin will only get two or so starts a week. He’ll pinch hit late, of course, but as a catcher, that particular role can be limited, as he’ll likely never be the first guy called upon.
Which means even if he’s as healthy as he’s ever been (which is apparently the case), he’s looking at a lot of sitting and waiting.
The whole thing is kind of depressing, really. At this point, he’s the third longest tenured Red on the team. While he’s never been “counted” on, per sé, it’s been somewhat of a Reds fan annual tradition to wonder when and if Mesoraco would ever break out/stay healthy/be what it always seemed like he could be: a cornerstone of the Reds lineup.
That’s obviously never going to happen, as this is almost certainly his last season as a Red. I mean, we could discuss possibilities where the Reds bring him back on a small deal to play the role he’s about to play this season, but I’m not sure it makes any sense. If he plays well enough this season and, maybe most importantly, stays healthy, someone is going to give him more money than the Reds should be willing to pay. If he doesn’t play well in his new role... why would the Reds pay anything but the minimum for replacement level production?
I suppose at some point I should mention his 2017 and what it may mean for the upcoming season, but again, there’s not much there. Mesoraco struggled in 165 plate appearances because, duh. That’s what happens when you can’t play for essentially two years. And then his season ended after fracturing his foot. Oof.
For his part, Mesoraco has played well this Spring. He’s got a .292/.367/.500 slash line through 30 PA, so he sure looks the part.
But with Mesoraco, we just never really know.