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The Trade Route

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 11:59 AM
Ive heard rumblings of the Twins swinging a trade with the Tigers for a big name pitcher, and I have to assume it would be Boyd.   A...
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Front Page: Randy Dobnak Is Better Than You Think

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 11:59 AM
Among the group of Twins internal starters without a firm place for 2020, but with a clear chance to assert themselves, one name stands o...
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Front Page: Official Twins Winter Meetings Day 3 Thread

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 11:57 AM
Day 2 of the Winter Meetings ended with a flurry of activity, ending a busy day. However, the Twins did not consummate any moves on Tuesd...
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Teams Inquiring On Eddie Rosario

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 11:47 AM
Per MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, teams have been contacting the Twins about the availability of Eddie Rosario but so far they have been rebuf...
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How high would you go for Cole?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 11:53 AM
Let’s say Cole would sign if we gave him enough money. How high would you be willing to go? What if we could get him for 8 years, 300 mil...
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Hot Commodities: Catching Up on the Free Agent Catcher Market

While free agency in general is off to a now-customary slow start, that hasn't been the case at catcher. Already the position's top name is off the market – Yasmani Grandal signed a four-year, $73 million deal with the White Sox last week – and on Sunday, Travis d'Arnaud inked a surprisingly lucrative deal with Atlanta.

This is a clear area of need for the Twins, and if they hope to land their preferred target(s), they may need to act quickly.
Image courtesy of Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
When putting together the Offseason Handbook, our presumption was that a crowded and relatively undifferentiated free agent catcher class would suppress salaries at the position, creating a buyer-friendly market. Early developments throw this premise into doubt.

Untethered to draft pick compensation, Grandal quickly found a home this time around, agreeing with Chicago on a hefty deal that exceeded our Handbook projection (4 years, $60M). That said, it was always clear Grandal was gonna get paid. Atlanta's contract with d'Arnaud is more eyebrow-raising.

On the surface, there wasn't much to separate d'Arnaud from any number of other middling backstops in free agency. He turns 31 in February, has generally been a part-time player, and hasn't posted an fWAR higher than 1.6 since 2015.

The 2019 season alone saw him designated for assignment and released by the Mets, then signed by the Dodgers, and promptly traded to Tampa for cash. These aren't transactions that scream "valued commodity."

Yet, here we are. Six months after being cast aside by the Mets, d'Arnaud has secured a $16 million payday. His contract is noteworthy because it is basically the same one a much more accomplished Jason Castro signed with the Twins back in 2017, minus one year.

Castro, now back on the open market, is another from the mid-tier group with d'Arnaud, seemingly not in a position of leverage. He's 32, coming off an unspectacular campaign following a lost one. But then again, he's a good defender, and a veteran with a strong rep. If the early deals are any indication, Castro's probably going to require more than the one-year, $6 million commitment we guessed in the Handbook.

Attached Image: Screen Shot 2019-11-25 at 7.49.42 PM.png
(From the Offseason Handbook. Get your copy.)


If early free agency action is indeed indicative of heightened demand at catcher, Castro could price himself out of the Twins' comfort zone. As a natural platoon fit with Mitch Garver, and a solid game caller familiar to the pitching staff, Castro is appealing as a reunion candidate – but only up to a certain point. There are many other interesting names on the market, including: Robinson Chirinos, Austin Romine, Stephen Vogt, Martin Maldonado, Yan Gomes, and Alex Avila.

Attached Image: Screen Shot 2019-11-25 at 8.00.48 PM.png


The decision here bears more importance than your standard backup catcher pickup, because the Twins appear committed to a balanced timeshare. Dan Hayes of The Athletic wrote a story for the Handbook detailing the strategy behind Garver's limited usage this year, and it doesn't sound as though the team intends to change course. While I suspect we'll see more of Garver in 2020 as a first baseman or DH, with the 26th roster spot making it easier to carry three catchers, there are still going to be at least 70-80 starts up for grabs at catcher.

Willians Astudillo could take some of them. But he was sadly none too inspiring this year. The Twins have a real opportunity to upgrade what was already a stellar position player corps. If they feel Castro is the best available option, they can afford him, even in a seller's market. But is he?

The other key question at play is whether the Twins feel they're in need of a stopgap or a longer-term solution. Garver is under control for four more seasons, but the system is otherwise thin at the top levels. That is, until you get to Ryan Jeffers, who may be closer than we realize.

Added in the second round of the 2018 draft, Jeffers has raked since joining the pro ranks, with a .296/.383/.453 slash line in his first 167 games. By the end of his first full season, he'd already reached Double-A, posting an .856 OPS in 24 games there. Clearly, the 22-year-old can hit. But what really intrigues me is his defensive tool kit. Hayes noted in his Handbook article that "Jeffers is an outstanding pitch framer – some within the organization think he’s among the top 15 in pro ball right now." High praise.

If the Twins are especially high on Jeffers, they may prefer to avoid a multi-year deal in free agency. Would that rule out Castro? Possibly. The best path for the front office might be a high-dollar one-year contract to sew up the only clear gap in their 2020 roster with some short-term quality.

And if they want it to be one of their preferred options, they might need to claim him soon.

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35 Comments

Any thoughts on who they will target Nick? You image of other catchers doesn't show well on mobile

I'm liking Avila if they don't bring back Castro.

    • Twins33 and Captain Torii like this
I’m afraid the Castro train has left the station and it ain’t coming back.
I know there is a lot written here but it's not an area of concern for me. Astudillo and Jeffers is fine. Get some pitchers.
    • bighat and Richard Swerdlick like this
Personally, I think catcher has often been undervalued except for those guys who have good to elite bats. Everything from defense to just working with the staff and making everyone comfortable are skills that can't be measured by any 100% statistic.

Regardless if you are a fan of Castro or not, he is respected and carries a solid resume and is experienced. While not a great hitter, and prone to streaks, he is an "OK" hitter who takes professional AB and has double digit HR power. Those are all positives.

The negatives are age creeping up, his injury in 2018, and the fact he wasn't a full time starter in 2019. Is there someone out there who really believes he's worth a 2-3yr deal for another $8M or so?

I'd really like him back in a 2yr $12M deal. What he has done with the Twins when healthy, the arrangement he and Garver had last season and what it produced, his familiarity with the staff and team, I could be convinced to go an additional $1M per grudgingly. But I'd really like to think the 2 and $12 should/could get it done.

I am very optimistic about Jeffers and how much the Twins seem to like him. But IMO, half a season at AA doesn't get it done for me. Offense and defense, there is still growth to be made and a learning curve. I feel so much better with Castro on board for 2 more seasons with Austudillo as that 3rd option.

If the numbers just don't make sense, I'm interested in Stephen Vogt and Robinson Chirinos as experienced options on lower cost 1yr deal options.
    • birdwatcher, brvama, LA VIkes Fan and 5 others like this
What has happened to Ben Rortvedt? Great defender and a left handed bat perfect back up catcher to Garver with La totuga as the 3rd.
    • mikelink45, Dave The Dastardly, rdehring and 1 other like this

d'Arnaud is 31? It feels like he was a "prospect" so recently. The mind is odd. On the contrary, I would have guessed Bumgarner is 35.

    • birdwatcher and mikelink45 like this

While a .220-hitting, glove-first classic back-up catcher is the least sexy signing the Twins could make, I think it makes the most sense. Get a real MLB back-up of that caliber (not a AAAA-type journeyman) on a one-year deal. Let the minor leagues that others have mentioned develop and push for that spot.

 

There's always some kind of market for a savvy vet catcher. Even Bobby Wilson was traded.

    • birdwatcher and mikelink45 like this
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Captain Torii
Nov 26 2019 07:43 AM

Castro or Avila, hopefully we can get a lefty backup to Garver. 

    • birdwatcher, Twins33, DocBauer and 1 other like this

 

What has happened to Ben Rortvedt? Great defender and a left handed bat perfect back up catcher to Garver with La totuga as the 3rd.

Interesting question, High heat.This isn't the first time Nick has included Jeffers in his short term projections for the position without mentioning Rortvedt. 

 

Won't speak for him as I don't know why he has that opinion.Although I am warming in my opinion of Jeffers, I maintain that Rortvedt is an equal, if not slightly better prospect.I base that on the progress he has made since signing out of high school and the fact that he got the AA promotion before Jeffers when it was time to move one of them up last summer.I also see Rortvedt as taking a big step forward with his bat last summer before his injury derailed his season.

 

On a related question.If/when MLB goes to the robo umpire for balls and strikes, pitch framing will become a non issue for catchers.What will that change do to the position insofar as valuing what a good catcher is? 

    • mikelink45 and Dave The Dastardly like this
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birdwatcher
Nov 26 2019 09:09 AM

Bringing Castro back would seem to be a good idea to me, even at 2/$12M. Turtle as injury insurance for 2020.

 

Castro could be pushed out in mid-2021 for an emerging Jeffers, or a surging Rortvedt. 

 

Interesting to me: FanGraphs appears to have "overlooked" Rortvedt. Last time I looked, I don't believe he even made the top 50 cut on their list and was maybe a 35+ FV prospect in their eyes. In contrast, Jeffers was at #7 on their list, so anything but overlooked!

    • SQUIRREL, mikelink45 and DocBauer like this
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Nick Nelson
Nov 26 2019 09:40 AM

 

What has happened to Ben Rortvedt? Great defender and a left handed bat perfect back up catcher to Garver with La totuga as the 3rd.

I like Rortvedt! Very nice prospect. I just think he's rawer and further away than Jeffers. If Jeffers is truly as special with pitch-framing as suggested, and his bat keeps rolling, he could be up by midseason. Rortvedt's ETA imo is 2021 or later. 

    • SQUIRREL, mikelink45, DocBauer and 2 others like this

 

I like Rortvedt! Very nice prospect. I just think he's rawer and further away than Jeffers. If Jeffers is truly as special with pitch-framing as suggested, and his bat keeps rolling, he could be up by midseason. Rortvedt's ETA imo is 2021 or later. 

Thanks, Nick.Will agree that it would be surprising for Rortvedt to make it to the Twins in 2020. 

 

What I find equally surprising is all the talk about Jeffers defense.If I recall, when he was drafted he was considered a very good bat with a lot of questions about his defense.Has his defense improved that much?Were the writers wrong when he was drafted?Or is it all because of reports about his pitch framing? 

 

There is so much more to being a good catcher than pitch framing, which seems to be all people talk about of late when discussing catchers.

    • mikelink45, Dave The Dastardly, sweetmusicviola16 and 1 other like this
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LA VIkes Fan
Nov 26 2019 10:37 AM

I like Castro, but if we can't get him how about Martin Maldonado? Excellent defensively, controls the running game, pitchers love him. Of course, he's not much of a hitter - .671 OPS last year, .644 lifetime - and he hits right handed so he's not perfect. Still, seems like a good option for the next year or two while Jeffers and Rortvedt develop in the minors. Astudillo can be the 3rd C/utlity 26th man or the C/Util guy on the AA shuttle to fill the 3rd spot for that same period. He should NOT be a guy who gets 300 ABs behind the plate on a contending team.

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Nick Nelson
Nov 26 2019 01:48 PM

 

Any thoughts on who they will target Nick? You image of other catchers doesn't show well on mobile

It's just a page from the Offseason Handbook. You can download it and get the whole thing in high-res, mobile-friendly format :)

 

To answer your question, I lean toward Castro or Avila. Vogt is a sneaky option because his LH pop and versatility would be useful in a three-catcher scenario.

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Nick Nelson
Nov 26 2019 01:52 PM

 

What I find equally surprising is all the talk about Jeffers defense.If I recall, when he was drafted he was considered a very good bat with a lot of questions about his defense.Has his defense improved that much?Were the writers wrong when he was drafted?Or is it all because of reports about his pitch framing? 

I heard much the same but Jeffers appears to be impressing people on the defensive side. Hayes also mentioned in his Handbook story that he has developed a strong rep as a game caller. I will note, for what it's worth, that Jeffers has not thus far shown a strong ability to throw out base stealers in the minors. (26% CS rate, compared to 43% for Rortvedt.)

    • mikelink45, Dave The Dastardly and rdehring like this

WIth Astudillo... I don't have any deal breaking defensive concerns. I'm not going to claim he's a master pitch framer or expert when it comes to handling the pitching staff but I will say that I didn't see anything that suggests that he costs the Twins from a defensive standpoint behind the plate either. 

 

When it comes to offense... I'll say it again. If Astudillo can exhibit plate discipline and this is just a matter of finding that specific light switch... His value would rise quickly and beyond what many of us imagine it could be because his offense would be so far above what typical catchers produce. 

 

I'm normally the guy who encourages multiple position ability. In the case of Astudillo... I think they should focus on catcher almost exclusively because catcher value is so inflated. Work on his defense at the catcher position extensively and get him to stop swinging at crap because he has clearly demonstrated that he can make consistent contact... therefore just try to eliminate the contact that he shouldn't be making contact with.  

 

The end result could be a .300 hitting catcher, increased OBP with walks added to the equation, double digit dingers and decent while not elite defense.

 

If you take that profile and compare it to the profiles of other typical catchers around the league. He would rise to near the top of the pile rather quickly. You have a player who can help you win games while on the roster and a player who could also bring back a big return should you trade him. 

 

Just look at the contract Grandal signed, look at the trade package Realmuto brought to the Marlins. No I'm not saying that Astudillo will become Grandal or Realmuto but I am saying that Catcher Value is inflated due to position scarcity over pay. 

 

Catcher... Don't overpay for them... Grow your own and let other teams over pay you for them. 

 

 

    • justinone, DocBauer and rdehring like this

 

I heard much the same but Jeffers appears to be impressing people on the defensive side. Hayes also mentioned in his Handbook story that he has developed a strong rep as a game caller. I will note, for what it's worth, that Jeffers has not thus far shown a strong ability to throw out base stealers in the minors. (26% CS rate, compared to 43% for Rortvedt.)

Maybe Jeffers put in the same work that Garver did to get much better behind the plate. 

 

I recall mention of Rortvedt's arm several times this year.When the robo umps are on the job, maybe shutting down a running game will become the in thing for catchers.But if they keep this juiced ball, who is running...certainly not the Twins.

 

WIth Astudillo... I don't have any deal breaking defensive concerns. I'm not going to claim he's a master pitch framer or expert when it comes to handling the pitching staff but I will say that I didn't see anything that suggests that he costs the Twins from a defensive standpoint behind the plate either. 

 

When it comes to offense... I'll say it again. If Astudillo can exhibit plate discipline and this is just a matter of finding that specific light switch... His value would rise quickly and beyond what many of us imagine it could be because his offense would be so far above what typical catchers produce. 

 

I'm normally the guy who encourages multiple position ability. In the case of Astudillo... I think they should focus on catcher almost exclusively because catcher value is so inflated. Work on his defense at the catcher position extensively and get him to stop swinging at crap because he has clearly demonstrated that he can make consistent contact... therefore just try to eliminate the contact that he shouldn't be making contact with.  

 

The end result could be a .300 hitting catcher, increased OBP with walks added to the equation, double digit dingers and decent while not elite defense.

 

If you take that profile and compare it to the profiles of other typical catchers around the league. He would rise to near the top of the pile rather quickly. You have a player who can help you win games while on the roster and a player who could also bring back a big return should you trade him. 

 

Just look at the contract Grandal signed, look at the trade package Realmuto brought to the Marlins. No I'm not saying that Astudillo will become Grandal or Realmuto but I am saying that Catcher Value is inflated due to position scarcity over pay. 

 

Catcher... Don't overpay for them... Grow your own and let other teams over pay you for them. 

 

You may have uncovered their plan, Riverbrian.Garver starts and plays around 100 games.Astudillo focuses on catcher and plays the other 62.They just signed a AAAA type vet for Rochester to go with Telis, who was there last year.That's their depth for the first half of the season.That is followed by two very good prospects who should be pushing to be in Rochester by mid-season, if not sooner.That plan works for me.

    • justinone likes this

You may have uncovered their plan, Riverbrian. Garver starts and plays around 100 games. Astudillo focuses on catcher and plays the other 62. They just signed a AAAA type vet for Rochester to go with Telis, who was there last year. That's their depth for the first half of the season. That is followed by two very good prospects who should be pushing to be in Rochester by mid-season, if not sooner. That plan works for me.


I hope so because I’m brilliant. 😀
    • rdehring likes this
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jorgenswest
Nov 26 2019 04:49 PM
I think the depth is too thin. I think Telis’ numbers are heavily skewed up having played several years at the AAA level. I don’t think he will hit and I have to assume his defense is below average. He might be better than Graterol though.

If Garver goes down early they will be looking for the 2020 version of Bobby Wilson. If Astudillo can’t cut it defensively when given that chance the 2020 Wilson will be starting 3-4 games a week. I would rather they sign an upgrade over a Wilson this winter and begin Astudillo in AAA catching every day.

The Twins have a surplus of outfield depth and even middle infield depth in Gordon on options. They have no catching depth and it really wouldn’t be that expensive to buy it. Maldonado cost the Royals 2.5 million.
    • Riverbrian, Sconnie and DocBauer like this

Personally, I have no issue with Astudillo being the back-up catcher and zero interest in Castro coming back. Since no one except the Royals bother to steal bases anymore, as long as he's not a train-wreck back there, he's fine.

    • justinone likes this

 

I think the depth is too thin. I think Telis’ numbers are heavily skewed up having played several years at the AAA level. I don’t think he will hit and I have to assume his defense is below average. He might be better than Graterol though.

If Garver goes down early they will be looking for the 2020 version of Bobby Wilson. If Astudillo can’t cut it defensively when given that chance the 2020 Wilson will be starting 3-4 games a week. I would rather they sign an upgrade over a Wilson this winter and begin Astudillo in AAA catching every day.

The Twins have a surplus of outfield depth and even middle infield depth in Gordon on options. They have no catching depth and it really wouldn’t be that expensive to buy it. Maldonado cost the Royals 2.5 million.

 

I agree with this as well. As I throw support toward Astudillo as a catcher... I also know that injuries can change things on a dime. 

 

All I can do is hope that they find someone better than Wilson for AAA or hope that Jeffers has Helium. 

    • jorgenswest likes this
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sweetmusicviola16
Nov 26 2019 06:03 PM

 

It's just a page from the Offseason Handbook. You can download it and get the whole thing in high-res, mobile-friendly format :)

 

To answer your question, I lean toward Castro or Avila. Vogt is a sneaky option because his LH pop and versatility would be useful in a three-catcher scenario.

Vogt is signing with Arizona. I would have liked him for the Twins.

 

Maybe it will be Astudillo.

    • DocBauer likes this

I agree with this as well. As I throw support toward Astudillo as a catcher... I also know that injuries can change things on a dime.

All I can do is hope that they find someone better than Wilson for AAA or hope that Jeffers has Helium.


I've always felt beyond your prospects at AAA, you should spend a little more to bring in a handful of AAAA guys that might be a cut above for insurance. You just never know what can happen.

From what I have watched, I have no problem with Astudillo behind the plate. And I absolutely agree with previous post that if he can just lay off the crazy outside stuff, he has the ability to be a solid and productive hitter in a fill-in role. But I like him best as my 3rd guy with someone a little more experienced to play with Garver. Again, I'm hoping for Castro. But there are other guys of interest, though losing Vogt as an option is disappointing.

But your AAA pitchers need and deserve someone quality to work with and provide the parent club with an extra, viable option.
    • Riverbrian likes this

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