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How Much Can The Twins Spend On A Catcher?

At the GM Meetings last week, Twins officials wasted no time expressing their interest in free agent catcher Jason Castro.

It's not clear how much he might command in salary, but the amount may be higher than expected, due to a sparse market and widespread need. How much can Minnesota afford to spend?
Image courtesy of Thomas Shea, USA Today
It's not an easy question to tackle because we don't really know what sort of restraints Derek Falvey and the new front office are looking at.

The Twins opened this year with a $105 million payroll, which is roughly the same as 2015. It's tough to gauge whether the figure might rise or fall next year, but the best guess is that they'll stay in that general vicinity.

The Pohlad ownership group has always maintained that spending is fluid, and they vigorously denied giving Terry Ryan hard caps during his tenure as general manager. Still, Ryan's payrolls typically fell in the lower half of the league, and he was never one to make major waves in free agency.

Falvey comes from an organization that operated with the same mid-market mindset. Cleveland's payrolls have ranked in the bottom third of the league every year since 2009.

When asked about the subject last week, the new Chief Baseball Officer struck a familiar tone:

"Payroll plays a role in a team's success, but the way we viewed it in Cleveland — I learned from the likes of [former team president] Mark Shapiro and [Shapiro's successor] Chris Antonetti — is that every team has challenges. It's our job to put forth a vision and a direction for this team to operate within the environment we're in," Falvey said. "So for me, any time we're focused on payroll is time wasted. That's not time focused on areas we can be developing the team."

It wouldn't be characteristic for Falvey to come in and immediately request funding for a splashy high-profile signing, nor would it be characteristic for Twins ownership to approve it. The biggest names on the market are nothing but pipe dreams. Given the club's current standing, they probably should be.

Castro always seemed like a more plausible target, and the Twins have moved on him quickly. Unfortunately, so too have other teams. With free agency less than a week old, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the 29-year-old already has offers from at least three American League teams.

In the Twins Daily 2017 Offseason Handbook, we estimated that Castro would end up receiving a contract in the area of three years and $21 million. The low-end projection seemed warranted. After all, we are talking about a guy who has never played more than 126 games in a season, and has a .660 OPS over the past three years.

However, as things evolve that number is looking low. With top free agent catchers Wilson Ramos and Matt Weiters carrying major question marks, the highest tier didn't separate itself. Castro also gets a boost from his favorable ratings in terms of advanced defensive analytics like pitch-framing.

In courting the former first-round draft pick, the Twins have some disadvantages – most notably the fact that they were baseball's worst team this year. But money talks. How loudly will it speak in this case?

Pulled from our extensive payroll analysis in the Offseason Handbook, here's a look at the team's present payroll commitments for 2017:

Attached Image: payroll1.png

As you can see, even if they keep all of their arbitration eligible players, the Twins are about $7 million short of where they started this year. And there are many ways that $98.5 million figure can drop pretty quickly.

For instance, the Twins could non-tender Trevor Plouffe ($9M) and put their faith in Miguel Sano at third base. They could trade Brian Dozier and his $6 million, while getting back at least one young pitcher capable of replacing Hector Santiago, whose $8 million could be dropped.

If the front office makes it a priority to add a difference-maker, then finding money for Castro – even at something like $10 million per year – shouldn't be difficult. In fact, depending on what they do at a few other positions, the Twins could create enough flexibility to outbid the competition for a Ramos or Wieters and still come up short of their 2016 payroll mark.

Keep in mind that nearly all of Minnesota's long-term commitments are soon to expire. The only current players whose contracts run beyond 2018 are Phil Hughes and Byung Ho Park. As Phil Miller notes, this allows the new regime to choose whom it wants to build around with little restriction.

In that context, their decision at the catcher position should prove telling, from a variety of perspectives. This much is clear: if Falvey and Levine want to aim high, there isn't a lot standing in their way.

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39 Comments

"The only current players whose contracts run beyond 2018 are Phil Hughes and Byung Ho Park."

 

sigh

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Nick Nelson
Nov 13 2016 09:32 PM

Ha, on the bright side, those two combined are only owed about $16 million in 2019 (~2/3 of Mauer's salary). And I don't think we should give up on either quite yet. 

    • glunn, nytwinsfan, HitInAPinch and 1 other like this

I'm find with spending $8-10 million per year for 2-3 years of Castro.  But let's please get rid of Plouffe and probably Santiago too. Neither is going to provide as much value to this team as Castro will. 

    • KirbyDome89 and TheBoofIsLoose like this
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KirbyDome89
Nov 13 2016 10:38 PM

"They could trade Brian Dozier and his $6 million, while getting back at least one young pitcher capable of replacing Hector Santiago, whose $8 million could be dropped."

 

I'm not dying to trade Dozier but this move makes so much sense. If they couple it with the non-tender of Plouffe those two moves should free up enough space to bring in a catcher who is more than just a stop gap for the year. 

 

I would be happy with Castro but if mid tier indeed has bled into the the upper tier I would rather see the Twins go after a catcher like Wieters. 

    • TheBoofIsLoose likes this

Boy, Castro is a weaker hitting Chris Herrmann with similar catching skills.When Castro is hitting under .210 in July we will all be talking about what a disaster that signing was...when in fact.....that is what is EXPECTED from him.

 

Boy, Castro is a weaker hitting Chris Herrmann with similar catching skills.When Castro is hitting under .210 in July we will all be talking about what a disaster that signing was...when in fact.....that is what is EXPECTED from him.

All stats from Baseball Reference: 

 

Chris Herrmann, career: .212/.284/.343 (.623)

CH, v RHP:  .215/.281/.355 (.636)

CH, v LHP:  .196/.275/.293 (.568)

 

Jason Castro, career: .233/.309/.390 (.699)

JC, v RHP: .247/.328/.424 (.753)
JC, v LHP: .190/.249/.287 (.536)

 

Chris Herrmann, D WAR:  0.1 in 555 PA (.00018 D WAR per PA)

Jason Castro, D WAR: 4.4 in 2,266 PA (.00194 D WAR per PA)

 

So you know, sorry, but you appear to be misinformed. Now Herrmann did have an amazing year last year, in only 166 PAs, but to say the two are comparable on either offense or defense is severely misinformed. And heck, I'd be willing to give Herrmann another shot if we could some how sign him as a free agent, which we can't. But Castro has an undeniably better track record, and platooning against mostly RHP, he can be a real asset. 

    • Mike Sixel, clutterheart, 70charger and 3 others like this
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HitInAPinch
Nov 14 2016 07:40 AM

6 reasons why Castro won't sign with the Twins:

 

Season Team                 League               WL   PCT  GB
2016   Minnesota Twins American League 59 103 .364 35.5  
2015   Minnesota Twins American League 83 79 .512 12.0  
2014   Minnesota Twins American League 70 92 .432 20.0  
2013   Minnesota Twins American League 66 96 .407 27.0
2012   Minnesota Twins American League 66 96 .407 22.0
2011   Minnesota Twins American League 63 99 .389 32.0

    • Dave The Dastardly likes this

 

6 reasons why Castro won't sign with the Twins:

 

Season Team                 League               WL   PCT  GB
2016   Minnesota Twins American League 59 103 .364 35.5  
2015   Minnesota Twins American League 83 79 .512 12.0  
2014   Minesota Twins American League 70 92 .432 20.0  
2013   Minnesota Twins American League 66 96 .407 27.0
2012   Minnesota Twins American League 66 96 .407 22.0
2011   Minnesota Twins American League 63 99 .389 32.0

Yeah, you might be right. But two things that could counteract that are (1) $$$, and (2) a new front office that convinces him that over the next couple years this will be a team on the rise, and he can be a critical part of that.  I trust the new guys to make that pitch a lot better than Ryan could, but I agree there is a decent chance he just says no thanks, even for a premium.

    • DocBauer and HitInAPinch like this
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Major League Ready
Nov 14 2016 08:14 AM

 

Yeah, you might be right. But two things that could counteract that are (1) $$$, and (2) a new front office that convinces him that over the next couple years this will be a team on the rise, and he can be a critical part of that.  I trust the new guys to make that pitch a lot better than Ryan could, but I agree there is a decent chance he just says no thanks, even for a premium.

I would think he goes to the highest bidder.This is probably his one chance to cash-in.He is a catcher entering his age 30 season and his career earnings are a touch over $12M.

 

Pay him a premium.Cover it by cutting Plouffe if you can't trade him.Platoon him with Murphy until Garver or Turner are ready.Of course, there is always a chance a preferred team just matches the bid until it gets to a point where its stupid to go any higher.

    • nytwinsfan and HitInAPinch like this

 

I would think he goes to the highest bidder.This is probably his one chance to cash-in.He is a catcher entering his age 30 season and his career earnings are a touch over $12M.

 

Pay him a premium.Cover it by cutting Plouffe if you can't trade him.Platoon him with Murphy until Garver or Turner are ready.Of course, there is always a chance a preferred team just matches the bid until it gets to a point where its stupid to go any higher.

 

Most players go to the highest bidder, unless they have family location preferences. Even then, unless the money is close.....

    • Winston Smith and HitInAPinch like this

Yeah, you might be right. But two things that could counteract that are (1) $$$, and (2) a new front office that convinces him that over the next couple years this will be a team on the rise, and he can be a critical part of that.  I trust the new guys to make that pitch a lot better than Ryan could, but I agree there is a decent chance he just says no thanks, even for a premium.


I agree with this. A new direction from a new FO, even after such a horrible season, has to make a player look at a team like the Twins differently. (Winning in 2015 probably doesn't hurt either) And I would think a player, such as Castro, would have to be intrigued not only by these changes, but would have to be somewhat excited to seexpect guys like Sano, Polanco, Rosario, Buxton, Kepler, etc, and see a positive future he could be part of.

Considering he plays a premium position, the team has the financial room for him, will probably shave payroll with a trade or two and a non-tender or two, I would feel OK if they went the $10M route. I just don't think I would go any higher than that.

Not really impressed with his stats especially on offense.  Would rather go with Garver and see how it plays out this season.

    • messed up, ken and Dave The Dastardly like this

 

Not really impressed with his stats especially on offense.  Would rather go with Garver and see how it plays out this season.

Why not platoon Castro and Murphy until Garver is ready (he's barely played at AAA) and then platoon Castro and Garver? You need two solid catchers on the big league roster anyway, and they need by far more frequent days off than any position other than pitcher. What better position to platoon? If there were good FA pitchers to spend the money on, that might be a different story, but there really aren't. Just more Nolasco types. So let's spend the money on a good FA catcher who can help our pitchers out with strikes and hit well against RHP (which is, after all, most of them).

    • BK432, DocBauer, Vanimal46 and 1 other like this
Is Jason Castro going to be a building block going forward? Don't we need more of a stop gap until someone like Garver or Murphy is ready? 10 million a year for three years sounds a little high priced.

Heck, where's Drew Butera at? At least he can play some defense.
    • ken likes this

 

Is Jason Castro going to be a building block going forward? Don't we need more of a stop gap until someone like Garver or Murphy is ready? 10 million a year for three years sounds a little high priced.

Heck, where's Drew Butera at? At least he can play some defense.

 

10 million a year is the going prices for good, but not great, FAs.....

 

What if Garver or Murphy is never ready? What if having a great pitch framer helps the young pitchers? What if they platoon Castro and one of those guys?

 

I really don't see the downside here. 

    • markos, nytwinsfan, HitInAPinch and 1 other like this

I'd sign this guy:

 

Willians Astudillo, C, 2.2 WAR

 

http://www.fangraphs...-agent-hitters/

 

To a AAA deal, with a good chance to be the 2nd catcher to start the year. Can't be worse than Centeno....

    • Loosey, markos, HitInAPinch and 2 others like this

I think that this is some very interesting piece of data that can help frame the conversation. From BP.Catcher defense, that including framing + throwing out + blocking runs above average.Descending.It includes AAA, which makes comparing JR Murphy with Castro possible, as far as defense goes.It also has Mitch Garver (next page; check the name of the guy above him...) who has a short sample at AAA.

Based on this, I think that the Twins might be better of with a Murphy/Garver two headed beast in the majors than Castro.

    • ken and Dave The Dastardly like this

 

I think that this is some very interesting piece of data that can help frame the conversation. From BP.Catcher defense, that including framing + throwing out + blocking runs above average.Descending.It includes AAA, which makes comparing JR Murphy with Castro possible, as far as defense goes.It also has Mitch Garver (next page; check the name of the guy above him...) who has a short sample at AAA.

Based on this, I think that the Twins might be better of with a Murphy/Garver two headed beast in the majors than Castro.

 

I just don't think Garver is ready....what, like, 20 games at AAA?

 

This slow pedal thru A ball, and rush thru AA/AAA thing is so backward to me.....

    • markos likes this
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Parker Hageman
Nov 14 2016 11:15 AM

For a visual, here's Castro's last 3 season versus Suzuki's in terms of pitch framing against right-handed hitters:

 

 

 

    • Nick Nelson, BK432, TheLeviathan and 1 other like this

 

I just don't think Garver is ready....what, like, 20 games at AAA?

 

This slow pedal thru A ball, and rush thru AA/AAA thing is so backward to me.....

 

We will find out... 

 

Got to disagree with the rushing part:Usually players "get it" at some point.If one player, got it, there is no reason to keep him down or slow him.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a Garver believer......I just want an actual catcher this year that is really good at defense and framing.

 

You know, like I want defense to matter in the OF and other positions....

    • DocBauer and nytwinsfan like this

Who the Twins sign as catcher should reflect where they think they are as an organization. There is absolutely no reason to spend a lot of money on a catcher if the Twins are a couple of years away from competing.

 

Castro is what, 29? if the Twins plan on being competitive in 2018, that means Castro will be pushing 31, an age when most players skills are on the decline.

 

The best framing catcher in the world cannot help a staff that cannot get hitters out.

 

    • Dave The Dastardly likes this

 

Who the Twins sign as catcher should reflect where they think they are as an organization. There is absolutely no reason to spend a lot of money on a catcher if the Twins are a couple of years away from competing.

 

Castro is what, 29? if the Twins plan on being competitive in 2018, that means Castro will be pushing 31, an age when most players skills are on the decline.

 

The best framing catcher in the world cannot help a staff that cannot get hitters out.

 

I don't agree that EVERY decision has to be about 2018 or 19....they need to help the pitchers they have, even learning and working with a good, veteran, catcher could help young players. I don't agree that all 25 guys need to be about "are they here"....the young players need a veteran or three (that can actually play), imo.

    • DocBauer, HitInAPinch and belker like this

 

I don't agree that EVERY decision has to be about 2018 or 19....they need to help the pitchers they have, even learning and working with a good, veteran, catcher could help young players. I don't agree that all 25 guys need to be about "are they here"....the young players need a veteran or three (that can actually play), imo.

Not sure that's what I said, but, your point does stand when it comes to veteran players. However, I am cautioning against signing a player like Castro as "the guy" that will set things right when the reality is that it's a fair amount of money for a catcher that will be working with a questionable pitching staff.

 

If all you're after is a veteran guy that works well with pitchers, might as well sign Drew Butera.  

 

Not sure that's what I said, but, your point does stand when it comes to veteran players. However, I am cautioning against signing a player like Castro as "the guy" that will set things right when the reality is that it's a fair amount of money for a catcher that will be working with a questionable pitching staff.

 

If all you're after is a veteran guy that works well with pitchers, might as well sign Drew Butera.  

 

Fair, I admit, I've wanted them to get Castro for like three years now.....so that might be clouding my brain some...