Position-by-position trade deadline preview: Catcher

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This is the first in a series of articles looking at players who might be available in the days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.
Kurt Suzuki (Athletics) – I’m starting it off with a couple of long shots. The A’s see Suzuki as a building block, and they’ll probably try to get him signed to a long-term deal this winter. While he’s overrated offensively, he is awfully consistent and his reputation for handling pitchers in sterling. The 26-year-old has drawn the eyes of the Red Sox and other teams previously, but Oakland would want a big haul to move him.
Miguel Montero (Diamondbacks) – Arizona reportedly turned down Boston’s offer of Daniel Bard for Montero before Montero’s breakthrough season last year. The Diamondbacks are a team in need of a shakeup, so no one in the lineup besides Justin Upton is untouchable. Still, the team would clearly prefer to move Chris Snyder instead.
John Buck (Blue Jays) – Now here come the more realistic trade candidates. With a .278 average that’s 40 points better than his career mark and 13 homers in 248 at-bats, Buck has proven to be a nice bargain for the Blue Jays after signing for just $2 million over the winter. Still, he’s a free agent at season’s end and the team may want to give prospect J.P. Arencibia a chance to audition for the starting job next year. There are no contenders desperate for a starting catcher, so Buck could stay. However, the Red Sox, Tigers, Dodgers and Angels could consider him if the price is right.
Ryan Doumit (Pirates) – Before Buck entered the picture, it looked like Doumit might be the Blue Jays’ catcher this year. Trade talks broke down, though, and Doumit remained with the Pirates. With 3 1/2 months down, he still has a chance to get through a season completely healthy for the first time. However, he hasn’t helped his stock by hitting a modest .259/.330/.414. A well below average defensive catcher, he wouldn’t seem to be a great fit for any contender at the moment.
Chris Snyder (Diamondbacks) – Fears about how he’d overcome back surgery, combined with a rather significant contract, prevented Snyder from being traded over the winter, but the 29-year-old has returned at 100 percent this year. He’s currently hitting .237/.350/.441 in 186 at-bats for Arizona, and the back held up just fine when he was playing everyday during Montero’s absence. The contract remains an issue: he’s owed $5.75 million next year and then either $6.75 million or a $750,000 buyout in 2012. That’s not a price anyone is going to want to pay for a part-timer, and while Snyder is a capable regular, there just aren’t any many teams looking for a regular at the moment. For that reason, he might stay put.
Chris Iannetta (Rockies) – Iannetta’s struggles to hit for average have set him back in Colorado, but he a fine offensive catcher even while batting .220-.230 and he’s always been solid defensively. The Rockies seem divided on him. He lost playing time to Yorvit Torrealba last year, only to get a three-year contract in the offseason. Then Miguel Olivo was brought in anyway, and Iannetta ended up back in Triple-A for a time this year. The Red Sox are thought to be hot on his trail, and Peter Gammons reported today that the Rockies turned down Boston’s offer of infielder Jed Lowrie for Iannetta. As hot as Iannetta has been recently, the Rockies will probably keep him unless they can get back someone capable of helping them immediately.
Dioner Navarro (Rays) – Navarro looked like one of the league’s better young catchers when he hit .295/.349/.407 for the Rays in 2008, but he came in at .218/.261/.322 last year and he was hitting a similarly pathetic .210/.291/.286 in 105 at-bats this season before getting demoted to Triple-A. He has performed better for Durham, coming in at .268/.404/.415 in 41 at-bats, so it’s possible someone will take a flier. The Rays probably won’t ask for much in return, since his current $2.1 million salary practically guarantees that he’ll be non-tendered in December.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Rangers) – Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden were supposed to split time for the Rangers behind the plate this season, but both have taken huge steps backwards. Salty played in just two games before going on the DL with back spasms, developed Mackey Sasser-like throwing problems while on a rehab assignment and got himself optioned to Triple-A as a result. He did iron out the throwing issue, but after a fast start offensively, he hasn’t hit for Oklahoma City and he’s fallen out of the Rangers’ plans for the rest of this season. Salty appeared to have a world of offensive potential a few years back and he’s still just 25, so he’s not hopeless. However, there probably isn’t any demand for his services right now. He’s more likely to find himself on the move this winter.
Lou Marson (Indians) – When the Indians picked up Marson from the Phillies in the Cliff Lee deal, they thought they were getting a pretty valuable property, albeit one probably without much of a future in the organization. Sure enough, Carlos Santana has quickly Marson expendable. Marson, though, has seen his value collapse with a dreadful offensive showing in the last 12 months. At this point, he’s looking like more of a pure backup than a player who projected as something close to an average regular a couple of years ago.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.