A lot of the commotion and hype surrounding the Twins and a catcher upgrade, at least in the very early stages of the 2015-2016 off-season, have surrounded free agent Matt Wieters. It's understandable. Catcher is one of the very few places on the Twins' roster that can absorb an upgrade without blocking A) an existing star or young player in need of full-time plate appearances, B) a young potential star who will be ready for full-time Major League plate appearances in very short order, or C) both of the above.
Catcher trade market
Catcher trade market
Heading into his age-30 season, Wieters is the youngest, legitimate starting catcher on the free agent list. Alex Avila will be just 29, but he's hit .224/.334/.360 in the four years since his last plus season at the dish. Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be 31, but is unreliable after he was released by the Marlins in early May. Dioner Navarro, at 32, doesn't look like a full-time starter. You can see where I'm going with this: if you want more than a backup, platoon option, or one-year stop gap, Matt Wieters is the beginning and end of your free agent wish list for catchers.
The problem is that Wieters is going to command a hefty contract (in the neighborhood of four years, $62 million), will require his signing team to surrender a draft pick, has played 101 games combined over the last two years, and will be three seasons removed from his last productive year. You can see why people might like the Twins to chase after Wieters. But if you want Terry Ryan and the Twins to "go for it," they can be a lot smarter with their resources.
Lucroy is 23 days younger than Wieters, which only means that he too is young enough to be a guy who could stick around for a few years if the Twins deemed it a good fit. He's coming off of a down season, yet he was just as valuable as Wieters and has a far superior recent history to the Baltimore backstop as well.
I've chosen an array of statistics to give you a snapshot of each player over the last two seasons. Playing time aside, RAA is StatCorner's attempt at quantifying a catcher's impact on getting extra strikes (or fewer strikes) called for his pitcher. It quantifies the efforts in Runs Above Average. The rest of the statistics - wins above replacement, isolated power, quality of contact on a batted ball are relatively self-explanatory.
Lucroy is under contract for $4 million in 2016, plus a 2017 option worth $5.25 million. That's exceptionally team-friendly, but for a team like Minnesota that adds a level of security. Terry Ryan will have to part with a couple of pretty good prospects just to get Milwaukee's attention, so the ability to get at least two years out of Lucroy is a plus. If he plays well over the next year or two, that security also allows the Twins to talk to the catcher exclusively if they have any designs on getting him to stay beyond two years; if things don't work out, the commitment is relatively short and would allow the club to move on quite quickly.
For a lot of this, the comparison is relatively obvious. Age is a push, but recent performance and projected performance might swing in Lucroy's favor. Whether you prefer to just throw money at a problem, or whether you prefer to save on the long-term commitments and deal prospects, may divide some; others may not care, provided the catcher issue is addressed.
The biggest question is the simplest: what would the Brewers want in exchange for a pretty good catcher? Milwaukee is interested in getting younger, but being able to send some Major League talent their way wouldn't hurt either. My trade offer starts with a controllable starting pitcher (one of Tyler Duffey, Tommy Milone, Kyle Gibson, Trevor May), an outfielder (perhaps Aaron Hicks or Oswaldo Arcia), and a top prospect (perhaps Kohl Stewart). Certainly Trevor Plouffe could be in the conversation, since Elian Herrera and Hernan Perez didn't exactly set the world on fire at third base when Aramis Ramirez was out. Ryan and the Twins have a great deal to work with, and provided the Brewers are reasonable there's no reason why the two organizations couldn't find a fit.
We could complicate the issue, naturally. Perhaps we'd like to see the Twins get Francisco Rodriguez tossed into the discussion, or maybe Terry Ryan is as interested in Will Smith as the rest of us. That kind of a deal gets a bit too unwieldy for me to guess at what kind of a package that would take.
The Twins absolutely need to get Kurt Suzuki some help behind the plate. Prefer Matt Wieters if you like, but there are a lot of good options on the market as long as we take the time to look. And considering what the Brewers are looking for, Jonathan Lucroy just feels like the perfect fit.