When the news broke of the Twins' trade of Aaron Hicks to the New York Yankees for John Ryan Murphy, the deal seamed reasonable enough. The club was dealing from an area of strength to address one of it's greatest weaknesses. After seeing the free agent and trade markets evolve, things are starting to look worse.
There was no reason the team had to deal away a player who would have been of value to the 2016 roster in order to solve the catching problem. True, Matt Wieters, the expected top prize of this offseason's catching group, was surprisingly off the market after accepting the Orioles' qualifying offer. Another potential target, A.J. Pierzynksi, quickly resigned with the Braves.
Did Terry Ryan overreact to that early activity? It's certainly starting to look like it. Here is a list of the other catchers who have signed so far:
Tyler Flowers: 2 years, $5.8 million
Brayan Pena: 2 years, $5 million
Chris Iannetta: 1 year, $4.25 million
Dioner Navarro: 1 year, $4 million
Alex Avila: 1 year, $2.5 million
Geovany Soto: 1 year, $2 million
Josh Thole: 1 year, $0.8 million
Jarrod Saltalamacchia: 1 year, $0.508 million
Those are very reasonable prices for guys who you could consider serviceable backups at the very least. Another move that went down Thursday evening has me further convinced there is even more reason to question the Hicks-Murphy trade.
The San Diego Padres acquired former top prospect Christian Bethancourt from the Braves, giving up basically nothing of value to their major league club for the '16 season. This move is especially notable because with Derek Norris and Austin Hedges already in the fold, San Diego is almost certainly shopping a catcher.
Going to Atlanta in that deal is the perpetually busted Casey Kelly, a 26-year-old former prospect who had a 7.94 ERA in 11 1/3 innings with the Padres and a 5.16 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A. The prize of the return for the Braves is 17-year-old catcher Ricardo Rodriguez. So, basically a long shot to ever be a significant contributor and a complete lottery ticket. Sounds like a lot better of a deal than giving up your starting center fielder.
In 143 career games at Triple-A, Bethancourt has hit .299/.327/.435 with 12 homers and last season between Atlanta and Gwinette he thew out 23 of 52 base stealers (44%). The Braves soured on him over questions regarding his game calling and an increase in passed balls. The fact that San Diego jumped on him despite not having a need at the position shows they feel he was being undervalued by the Braves, and it seems to me like experience and instruction could go a long way in fixing those issues.
While it's great that the Twins filled a huge hole in the organization by adding Murphy, who is a better long-term solution than any of the free agents listed above and has more of an MLB track record than Bethancourt, it's frustrating to think that hole could have been filled without having to part ways with Hicks.