Yesterday afternoon we discussed whether or not the Twins should be buyers heading up to the July 31 trade deadline. The quality and quantity of young talent either due to be called up soon or already on the roster really limits what Minnesota might be able to do. One of the conclusions I came to was that catcher could be one area where the team could improve with the least repurcussions.
The one place where it makes sense for the Twins to buy, and perhaps buy big at the deadline, would be at catcher. Kurt Suzuki has turned back into Kurt Suzuki, and neither Chris Herrmann nor Eric Fryer give the Twins options for helping the team win games by virtue of their backstop skills. Josmil Pinto's bat plays, but the defense is a big question mark and he's currently on the disabled list anyway. Unless you're a big believer in Pinto as an everyday catcher, there isn't another receiver in the system who looks like they might be able to hit enough to be considered a starter.
With that in mind, here are three players the Twins could target in a moderately realistic scenario. I'm not going to get into speculation about what these guys might cost Minnesota in terms of prospects, at least not until we know that they might legitimately be available. If you want to speculate, I encourage you to do so. Suffice it to say that none of them would come cheap - Mike Pelfrey, Aaron Hicks, Ricky Nolasco, and Brian Duensing won't have any trade value here.
Andrew Susac, San Francisco Giants
Drafted: 2nd round, 2011
Susac is blocked by Buster Posey, who is apparently some kind of really talented catcher. But as a catcher/first baseman Susac is somewhat of an unnecessary luxury for San Francisco. Coming into 2015 he was rated as the #88 prospect in baseball by Baseball America and the #97 prospect by Baseball Prospectus.
A career .256/.364/.424 hitter in 1,013 minor league at-bats, Susec has backed up Posey with 71 plate appearances. After a .792 OPS in 35 games down the stretch for the Giants last year, his performance has dropped off this year as playing time has become less consistent. With good power for a catcher and a plus arm as a backstop, Susec is Major League ready and needs to play everyday as soon as possible. He'll be arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2018 (his age-28 season) and will hit free agency in 2021 (31 years old).
Because he's superfluous for San Francisco doesn't mean he'll come cheap, but with Minnesota's farm system it's hard to imagine it would be difficult to find a match - provided the Giants had any interest in dealing him.
Kevin Plawecki, New York Mets
Drafted: 1st round, 2012
Plawecki is in a similar position to Susac in that he's blocked by another talented backstop: Travis d'Arnaud. Plawecki is 24 and d'Arnaud is 26, so both are young and should be playing everyday. Sitting the other on the bench is a waste of talent, although it's a nice luxury to have. Coming into this year, Baseball America ranked Plawecki the #63 prospect in baseball while Baseball Prospectus ranked him #80 and MLB.com ranked him #63.
A .292/.368/.435 hitter in 1,230 minor league plate appearances, Plawecki made his Major League debut this year filling in for the injured d'Arnaud. Now that d'Arnaud is back and healthy, could Plawecki be available for the right price?
MLB.com's Jim Callis ranked him as the sixth-best catcher prospect in baseball heading into 2015. Here's what he had to say about the Mets player:
New York already has the guy who ranked No. 1 on this list a year ago, but Plawecki could push Travis d'Arnaud for the Mets' starting job in the second half of 2015. Plawecki doesn't have a standout tool, but he also doesn't have a weakness, as he makes repeated contact with gap power and is an efficient thrower and receiver.
In 122 plate appearances for New York this year, Plawecki is batting .212/.262/.572. If he stays in the Major Leagues all year he should be eligible for arbitration in 2018 for the first time (his age-27 season) and free agency in 2021 (30 years old).
Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles
Drafted: 1st round, 2007
The Orioles are in the thick of the AL East race, but Caleb Joseph has held down backstop in Baltimore while Wieters was on the shelf to start the season. A free agent at the end of the year, there's an off chance that the club might be willing to deal Wieters if they feel they're getting a nice return. If my math is correct, a team picking up Wieters would need to foot the bill for his contract - roughly $1.4 million per month.
Wieters is a capable catcher who probably can't sit behind the plate six days a week, but that's okay. Giving four or five starts to him and two or three to Kurt Suzuki every week would be an easy balance, and it would provide plenty of opportunity for Josmil Pinto later in the year as a contingency plan if he wasn't involved in the trade.
Because he's off to a hot start now that he's healthy, and because he's Matt Wieters, and because it's a short-term add instead of a long-term gamble on upside, the cost-to-benefit ratio in this deal would look quite a bit different than what it would be for Susac and Plawecki. Oddly enough, even though he's 29 and essentially a three-month rental, I actually wonder if Wieters would be a more expensive purchase than the other two. Buying potential is certainly expensive, but so is buying a track record.
Would you be willing to see the Twins make a move for one of these three, or is there another catcher out there that you think might be a good fit?