Monday, October 31, 2011

Some catching alternatives

Drew Butera hit .167/.210/.239 in 254 plate appearances last season, which is pretty putrid but not quite as bad as Rene Rivera's .144/211/.202 in 114 plate appearances. And both looked like Babe Ruth next to Steve Holm .118/.167/.176), but at least the Twins invested just 18 PAs in him.

Rivera has been taken off the 40-man roster. Butera is still on the 40, but considering how poorly he performed both at the plate and behind it -- he had seven passed balls, which is a lot for someone who (a) caught less than half his team's innings and (b) wasn't dealing with a knuckleballer -- his job is hardly secure.

A meeting early in the season
between two subjects of
this post: Ryan Doumit
tags out Jose Morales.
There are, or will be, some interesting (and flawed) alternatives to back up Joe Mauer available this winter, starting with the guy who lost out to Butera in 2010.

Jose Morales was traded after the 2010 season to Colorado, a move that opened a roster spot to re-sign Carl Pavano. (The minor league pitcher acquired in the the deal, Paul Bargas, was found during spring training to have a brain tumor; in a season marked by a seemingly endless string of health issues, Bargas' was simultanously the lowest profile and the worst.) Morales opened the season as the Rockies back-up catcher, but he fractured his thumb and was limited to just 22 games, 71 plate appearances. He didn't play anywhere, majors or minors, after June.

Colorado outrighted Morales earlier this month. He's 28, he's had plenty of injuries, he's out of options, he doesn't have a great defensive reputation, he doesn't have much power -- but he's a good contact hitter, especially left-handed (he's a switch hitter).

Will the Twins bring him back? I doubt it, if only because it would imply an admission of error in choosing him over Butera. Still, if they want a low-cost bat-first catcher, he's a possibility.

Two other guys, likely to be pricier than Morales (or Butera), who caught my eye last month are Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder, both now of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pittsburgh GM has said that he is unlikely to pick up the options on either man.

Doumit is a good hitter -- not just a good hitter for a catcher, but a good hitter, period. As a catcher, he's pretty brutal, and the Pirates ran him out in right field and first base some last season before he went down with an injury, which isn't unusual for him (he's spent time on the DL every season since 2006).

I think the switch hitter would be particularly attractive if the Twins lose both Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel in free agency; Doumit could be used to DH, back up Mauer and play some right field (or first bas) as well. He'll turn 31 in April.

Snyder isn't as good a hitter as Doumit but is a superior defender. He'll turn 31 in February. His problem: He had back surgery during the season. He is said to be recovering well, but catching is tough on backs.

These are three different types of catcher. I would think the Twins would be more interested in somebody like Snyder is they fear Mauer can't catch 130 times in 2012. Doumit would make sense if the Twins want to carry Butera as a defensive catcher, freeing Doumit to DH or play other positions. And Morales, or his ilk, would be a bat-first backup.

And, of course, cost matters.

1 comment:

  1. Somebody explain to me how a ML team does not have serviceable (forget future star quality) players available in the minors for infield or catcher or for that matter any position...isn't that what the concept of the minors is for - developing players? We read and hear about such and such prospect that is 'x' years away - but those are the possible future stars. Just seems flawed that there is no one that can even come up as a backup from the AA or AAA club when there is this need at the ML level.