Star Tribune's Patrick Reusse dropped a column today extolling the virtues of a competitive team having a productive catcher in order to find success.
He did this through the usual history lesson that starts with decisions made in the mid-20th century beginning with acquiring Earl Battey and continues into the Wilson Ramos trade and Joe Mauer's eventual relocation from behind the plate.
Reusse then takes aim at the current assortment of backstops.
Garver is not an adequate receiver. Nobody is expressing it, but it’s obvious the pitchers want to throw to Wilson and not Garver.
Take my word on this: There is no group that makes more excuses than starting pitchers, and now they have K Zones to blame umpires and pitch-framing analysis to blame catchers to support their complaints.
The Twins don’t have a catcher in the minors who can both hit and receive to big-league standards. They have Brian Navarreto, an outstanding receiver who can’t hit, at Class AA. They have Ben Rortvedt, a 20-year-old just reaching high-A at Fort Myers, who could arrive in three, four years.
Statistically speaking, this position has been a mess for the Twins this year. According to fWAR, the Twins catching unit has been worth -0.5 wins above replacement, tied with the Nationals for lowest in the MLB. The collective has posted a .197/.276/.293 slash, a line only usurped in disappointment by the Orioles and Nationals.
As far as defensive is concerned, it has been fairly bleak too. In framing terms, Wilson (1.7 runs above average via Baseball Prospectus) has been significantly better than Garver (-4.0 runs, 89th among catchers) so it is easy to see why the pitchers would lean toward Wilson. Likewise, Wilson has been much better than Castro when blocking balls as well (Wilson's 0.6 run above average to Castro's -1.0). What's more is Garver's POP time average is 2.14 seconds when throwing to two -- one of the reasons he's thrown out just four of 25 on stolen base attempts.
Garver's defense has long been a work in progress but this season has overexposed it. It might be more palatable had he been bashing more but he 692 OPS is just slightly north of an average league catcher. He could improve, no question. And it is possible that Jason Castro returns for his final year of his contract hungry to earn a new deal. That being said, it's hard to be optimistic about the position.
To come full circle, Reusse concludes the Twins need to find or identify a catcher of the future -- from outside the organization.
The Twins need a team to trade them a 25-year-old Earl Battey this offseason. Or even better, they need a team to trade them a 22-year-old Wilson Ramos at the end of this month.
I wouldn’t hold my breath for either.
So Twins Daily readers I pose to you: how would you solve the catching problem?