Off-season Series for Minnesota Twins: Catching Candidates for 2017
Now is the best time of the year for all of us Couch GMs. The MLB silly season is upon us. Between the GM meetings last week and the upcoming owners’ Winter Meetings, every club is in wheel ‘n deal mode. Holes are trying to be filled, farm systems rebuilt, bullpens bolstered, and contracts moved. The Twins have many, and I repeat, many needs going forward. Here I will address the need of a new backstop. Your candidates:
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Houston Astros relief pitcher Ken Giles (left) and Castro. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Castro This is the name that everyone is talking about. He is a good pitch framer, and our pitchers can use every advantage that they can get. At 29 years old, you are looking at another 5 years if you are lucky. Bad thing here is that his slash line is a pedestrian .210/.307/.377 and that is trending the wrong way recently. He would be an upgrade behind the plate but still a liability at it.
Wilson Ramos Here is a name that long-standing Twins fans should remember. Ramos was dealt to the Nationals in an ill-fated trade for Matt Capps during the 2010 season. He is a bat that catches. Last year he hit .307 with 22 HRs before tearing the ACL in his right knee in the end of September. He recently won the NL Silver Slugger for catchers. He would be a great get but will not be ready by Opening Day.
Derek Norris Norris had a down year in 2016 for the Padres. He came in under the infamous Mendoza line, batting just .186 AVG last season. His is just two years removed from an All Star season where he hit .270 and is two years younger than Castro and Ramos at 27. He should be able to find a middle ground somewhere and still has a little more tread left than some of the other available catchers available. He should slot in money-wise between Ramos (high end) and Castro. Norris is also known to get some extra help on called strikes for pitching, so that is a plus in our new front office’s book too.
Mitch Garver Looking inside the Twins family, you find Garver and he has been moving up the organizational depth chart the last couple of years. He split last year between AA Chattanooga and AAA Rochester and moved past Stuart Turner as the most likely to make it to Target Field next. He is rated with a strong arm, and improving defense. On the 20-80 prospect scale, all 5 tools are rated between 40 and 55. He looks to many evaluators as a back up or a low end starter.
Austin Barnes This scenario is a little bit out there and requires moving a bigger piece. While I was looking through prospects and reading write ups, I came across Barnes. He was drafted by the Marlins, traded to the Dodgers in the Dee Gordon trade. With LA, he is sitting behind Yasmani Grandal, and is still low on experience playing with the big boys. Barnes is just shy of 27 and is still under control by the Dodgers, so he would only be an option in a trade. Twins fans that I have talked with weren’t happy when they heard that Dozier received interest by multiple teams, but the Dodgers are one that has been reported more than once. Any move of Dozier would require a decent return including a front-line starting pitcher. Including Barnes, a catcher that would take on the bulk of the catching duties, would be a “catch”.
Unless the new brass can get Castro before Atlanta or one of the others hot on him, I don’t see any additions by the Twins at catcher. Ramos would be my first choice, but his price tag, and his unavailability at the start of next year, is going to make the Twins look elsewhere.
Norris is the popular vote as a reclamation project, but if we go that route, it needs to be on a make-good contract with a team option for a second year. With Barnes being a long shot due to a trade, it probably comes down to a battle between prospects Garver and Centeno. With Garver’s higher upside, and poor defense by Centeno, I envision Garver backing up John Ryan Murphy in 2017.