Nationals Baseball: Anyone got a catcher?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Anyone got a catcher?

The Nats offensive issues are not easily solved. Everyone is entrenched in their position, except for RF which is just waiting for Werth to come back.  While there is talent at nearly every position there isn't THAT much talent.  Sure if the Nats are hitting on all cylinders they can score some runs but you don't usually do that.  Usually some guys are hot, some are cold, and the rest are average.  Like right now, Zimm is super hot, Danny is doing ok.  Meanwhile Bryce is ice cold and the rest of the every day players are doing mediocre at best. Ian back in the lineup will help but he's just one bat.

The only place the Nats do have a spot that isn't committed to someone is at catcher.  With Ramos on the sidelines with a serious injury and no good back-up in place (sorry Flores you had your shot) the Nats may be able to get a cheap boost of offense from a rental catcher.  But who's available?

MLBTradeRumors gives us the following list:  Kurt Suzuki, Ramon Hernandez, Geovany Soto, Kelly Shoppach, Humberto Quintero.  Any of them worth it? For comparison Flores is hitting .234 / .273 / .348.

Suzuki - .216 / .252 / .267.  At 28 Suzuki shouldn't be done, but he seems like he fell off a cliff.  Even if you like him (Maybe Gio puts in a good word), he's signed for some decent money next season which the Nats would have to eat (or play him Ramos may need the time)

Hernandez - .206 /.248 /.373.  Still pretty decent power and was hitting as recently as last year.  At 36 though you really can believe he's done.  If you can't hit in Colorado then where can you?  Also he too is signed for next year.

Soto - .189 / .268 / .351. Like Ramon, was hitting ok the past few seasons.  Like Ramon terrible this year.  He's under team control so that's something but that means a lot less at 29. 

Shoppach -  .263 / .358 / .516.  A guy who's hitting, finally! Shoppach has sat a lot, missed most tough righties, but if you can ignore that he's done rather well.  His recent number suggest he's fluking into a good year (nearly .400 BABIP) but there's nothing wrong with grabbing someone while they are hot and hoping to ride it out.  The longer the Red Sox stay in the hunt though the less likely a deal is made.

Quintero - .232 /.257 / .341.  Yes he is available.  Certainly so. Moving on.

If you made me choose, I guess I might try Soto or Hernandez, but it would have to be for next to nothing. Hernandez's salary next year is low enough to eat.  Soto's won't be terribly high either.  Both seem to have a little bad luck pushing their averages down, but then again they are aging catchers and those guys tend to be slow and have low BABIPs.  Their power is still decent. I guess I like Soto actually a little better.

The most intriguing possible available player is the Blue Jays JP Arencibia, He had some nice power and average numbers in the minors (and not just in the PCL) and has hung on in the majors.  At 26 he might have a few surprisingly good years left. But the Blue Jays are trying for the WC and their catcher of the future Travis d'Arnaud is out with a serious injury. Which means they'd have to bomb out quickly AND have a strong sense d'Arnaud is ok for the future to make any deal. I'm not sure that will happen.

I guess if I were in Mike Rizzo's shoes, Soto for a middle reliever might be worth a try. Mattheus? Arnesen? These guys are back of the pen material for the Nats and at age 28, aren't young guys you worry about losing.  Or maybe a AA or low A guy who is actually young but is only potential now. Chances of losing a lights out closer from someone like that is slim (look at H-Rod).  But if he wants to roll with Flores I can't hardly blame him.  There's no guarantee of help out there.


Donald said...

You might be overlooking a different option -- Sandy Leon. He's back from his injury and hitting over .300 in AA. He's also supposed to be a very good defender.

Harper said...

He ahs improved steadily with the bat but 44 AA games to the majors is quite a jump. Still probably worth a shot before you deal.

Anonymous said...

Flores is just in a little slump, he'll bounce back. He isn't a .230 hitter, he'll bring that average back up around .245-.255 by the end of the season, which is fine.

And Mike Rizzo explicitly stated that the Nats will NOT trade for a rental player, so you've wasted your time here.

Josh A said...

Flores is singlehandedly driving this team into the dirt. Thank you, Harper, for making me not the only person who realizes this.

Lee said...

Considering how thin we are at catcher now, I keep wondering about Bryce there. Not as a solution, but as an emergency fix or in-game strategic move. Say we make the playoffs without making a move at catcher and we lose Flores (or Solano)... does Bryce make a 1-2 inning appearance at catcher after a double shift? It seems unlikely, but could prove interesting.

Jeff Hayes said...

Those options provide a marginal improvement - maybe - over Flores. I'm convinced we will rise or fall based on the cards we've been dealt. And maybe our hand isn't as strong as we'd like it to be.

I'm beginning to think that maybe we are overlooking the effect the injuries are having on our hitters' consistency. No one is even close to hitting .300. Across the league, of the 29 hitters with a BA of .300 or better, only 2 have missed more than a few games this year. To test my theory, I checked all the hitters that finished with a BA above .300 last year. On average, they missed five games over the course of all of the 2011 season.

If this is true, then we are riding a roller coaster. We get Zim back and, after paying the consistency penalty, hitting well but lose Ian. When he returns, depending on how many games he misses and the actual physical effects of his injury, we can expect to pay some form of consistency penalty until he gets back into the grove. The same thing will happen with Werth, only his consistency penalty will likely be a much longer period before he's productive.

Another consistency effect of the injuries has been the platooning of left field. Lambardozzi appears to have the lead here, but he still loses playing time on a regular basis. If there is a consistency penalty, we are paying it in spades here.

This, obviously, doesn't account for all of our hitting problems. Harper hasn't missed time since coming up and yet he has been struggling to meet the (too high?) standard we've come to expect. Flores should have paid his consitency penalty long ago from stepping into the starter role after Ramos' loss.

Taken as a whole, this suggests to me that our success will depend on whether we can keep the nucleaus of our lineup healthly long enough so that we have paid off the consistency penalty from Zimmerman, Werth, Morse, Desmond (maybe), and Laroche's stints of the DL before the Braves catch us.

blovy8 said...

I don't see any of these guys as significant enough of an upgrade to bother making a deal. Better to play Solano more if you think he's having better atbats. I know the Red Sox would love to dump Shoppach on us for anything useful so they can bring up Lavarnway. That's a guy who would make a difference offensively, but would cost more than a middle reliever.

Anonymous said...

what's wrong with Solano? He is giving the team a spark and hitting .294/.333/.559 (admittedly a very small sample size, but Flores is a known commodity)

brendan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
brendan said...

What's wrong with Solano? The sample size is too small. He was hitting .400 only a few weeks ago. When you can raise and drop your average by more than a hundred points in that short amount of time, the sample size is way too small!

Matt said...

I don't think the real problem is Flores' hitting. Yeah, he doesn't hit well, but most catchers don't. I think you could make an argument that his defense isn't great and his hitting is more or less average, making him a below-average player. But most teams have a weakness or two and I think Flores is far from the worst.

The big problem is if Flores gets hurt -- which is an issue, as he has a pretty serious injury history, and as many have noted, he catches with his throwing hand in front. Then you're stuck with Solano as your first string catcher, and somehow I doubt his recent offensive prowess carries forward for reasons that others have mentioned. Plus, to my eyes, he looks below-average defensively. And I guess Maldonado as the backup. That IS a situation where catcher really could be a massive black hole.

Mythical Monkey said...

If these are the available catchers, I don't see them making a deal even to improve over Solano as a backup. The only reason to upgrade there might be to give Davey Johnson an option he would be willing to use more often than once every five days. Which might mean Flores is a bit less beat up which might mean he hits a little better.

But who knows.

In any event, I don't see them dumping Flores for anybody available.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the Nats don't make any moves before the trading deadline ...

DezoPenguin said...

Don't forget, too, that Leon was actually the first guy called up when Ramos was hurt, only to be injured, which resulted in Maldonado, and then Solano when Maldonado got hurt. If Flores craters, I think Solano and Leon end up finishing the season. The possible improvements are too marginal, unfortunately.

The real problem, basically, is as Harper outlines it: the entire starting lineup is made up of above average talent. None of them is a star (other than a healthy Zim, though Bryce has the upside to be and last year's Morse qualifies), but we're just no longer running out guys like Ankiel and Nady and expecting them to somehow catch fire. So the only way to upgrade is to acquire star-quality players, and those guys aren't readily available on the trade market. Much as we'd like to dream, we're not getting Yadier Molina, Robinson Cano, or Andrew McCutchen.

The one area that I think we might see a Nats move is to acquire a front-line starter, a guy in the Hamels (though he'd need to be signed to an extension as part of the deal) or Greinke (though he already vetoed Washington once in the past) class. That addresses the issue that Jackson is backsliding to be who he was before the first half of this year, and the elephant in the room of Strasburg's shutdown, and obviously upgrading the pitching helps keep the shaky offense from being such an obvious issue.

Josh A said...

I've been curious about Harper at catcher too. Since he has experience in that area, wouldn't it make sense to use him there, at least sometimes? Especially when Werth gets back. Our outfield would be just as strong with Morse and Werth anchoring and Moore, Bernadina, Nady, Ankiel, and Lombardozzi platooning that last spot. Putting Harper at catcher, if only for a few games would shore up the offense without crippling the defense.

Harper said...

Anon - .240 or .250 for Flores isn't fine becuase he doesn't walk or hit for much power BUT .240/.250 would make any improvement from a deal even that much more marginal. Short of it is if you like Flores even a little bit there's no reason to deal.

I took Rizzo's statement to be more of a "we're not giving up anything worthwhile for someone we'll lose next season" The debate then is whether you consider an arm like Arnesen worthwhile. But you could read it strictly - like I said there's no obvious place for the Nats to get better.

Josh Aebischer - Well I wouldn't say "singlehandedly" or "into the dirt". How about "is the only potentially easily addressable offensive issue for a team who's offense could keep them from staying among the elite teams in the majors"?

Lee / Josh - catcher is more wear and tear for a guy they want to do all to avoid wear and tear on. They also want him to get as many innings as possible in the OF since his fielding is up and down. Bryce will only ever be an emergency catcher.

Jeff - are you just looking at BA title qualified batters over .300? Right there you are going to only see guys who played at least 130-135 games to begin with.

Injuries can only hurt - not only consistency but ability. Ryan couldn't hit because he was injured even though he was getting at bats. So yeah we need to get everyone back and healthy, but that's a tall order for any team, any season. Better to hope the best ones stay ok

Blovy / anon / brendan - brendan hits it on the head Solano just isn't good. You can tell the Nats know it too because they haven't played him. Leon is a better one to play if you are looking to luck out.

Matt - that's just something the Nats will have to suck up. You can't expect them to have 3 MLB worthy catchers in the organization. Lots of teams can't find one. So two catchers injuries giving your team an auto out? That's just the way it goes.

MM - I'd bet on no move myself. If not catcher what do you got? A big deal for a pitcher or an impact bat. that's it. Usually teams marginally improve a weak MI position or back of the pen but the Nats don't need either of those. Fielding sub for OF - Ankiel is ok there. Pinch runner - Bernie / Lombo are good enough.

Dezo - yeah and pitcher is a place you can always improve dramatically because you are kicking out that #5 - not the next best guy. But that's going to be a rich deal and the Nats would have to empty out an organization to do it. It's not worth it unless they have guarantees of signing the guy. And really if the Nats can make the playoffs I'll take ZNN and Gio and EJax if necessary in that 3rd game. That's a good playoff rotation.

Anonymous said...

I think the appropriate comparison to the catchers you identify is not Flores but Solano (or Leon, or Maldonado). I like the onion enough, but I consider his hitting success so far to be a mirage and he's a disaster when it comes to blocking pitches in the dirt. We need a second catcher if for no other reason than to spell Flores so he can improve his middling batting stats. It's obvious to me that Davey doesn't trust Solano and the way he caught Strasburg on Sunday is the reason.

Wally said...

Good post. I agree that catcher is a concern, but I am more in the camp of worrying about a Flores injury. I'll take his bat if he stays healthy. I think that there would be a real concern that any of the back ups would be 50 points lower in OPS. Also agree that Davey doesn't think Solano is that good, based on playing time. So I would look for a guy to platoon now, meaning some of those guys would be ok by me. I would like to know the asking price on Shoppach at least; I wouldn't pay much, but I'd give Arneson. Failing that, Suzuki maybe, since it should just be money and they have the payroll room. Plus, I'd ask about Kottaras from MIL. Should come cheap, and while avg. isn't good, OBP and power are decent. Plus he is a LH, making him a potentially valuable platoon guy.

I also don't see the trade for a Greinke/Hamels type guy. If Rizzo does anything big, I'd look for a run at J. Upton. I could see Rizzo putting Morse and maybe Espy in a deal for him. They would have to be comfortable with either him or Harper in CF for the next few years, plus Desi coming back. Kind of Rizzo's MO for star guys, and also staying in love with guys that he drafted. I am not really saying that I would do that deal, just that I could see Rizzo do it.

Matt said...

Harper -- I agree starting the season with 3 MLB quality catchers would be ridiculous, and clearly the Nats had quite a bit more catching depth coming into the season than average. But now there's more information -- the 1st and 3rd best guys are out -- and not updating the plan at this point would be foolish. Yeah, Rizzo has said he won't pay for a rental (what he'll does is another matter), but that doesn't mean it's a bad idea.

Personally, I'd get one of the marginal guys with only this year left on their contract -- I don't think it matters too much which one. I'd guess it would be cheap (otherwise I wouldn't advocate doing it), both in terms of prospects/$s. In my opinion, this is the sort of insurance move a club which plans to be in contention needs to make.

We'll just have to see what Rizzo does, I guess (especially since I think he's pretty good at his job, so whatever move he makes/doesn't make is a good approximation of the right call).

DezoPenguin said...

I honestly don't see a catcher move as a good choice, simply because the guys who are available aren't necessarily a guaranteed upgrade on the ones we already have. Old guys on the downside of their careers, players with upside having serious slumps...these aren't the kind of players you want to plug in as a fix. With Ramos coming back next year, the situation would be ideal to go out and get a rental-type, knowing that we'd be covered when he leaves and that the price would be lower, but there's just not one available that would be a notable upgrade on Flores/Solano/Leon. At the very least, Rizzo already gave Leon a shot at being the backup to Flores before he was injured, so when he's medically ready, if Flores's hitting struggles continue to the terminal point or Solano's defensive issues are deemed serious enough by Davey, then call him up.

On a more positive note, nice start by Det. tonight against the Mets.

Nattydread said...

I think you laid it out well. There isn't an available catcher to improve the situation. Rizzo -- who LIKES to trade -- is holding his cards now. Stick with Flores/Leon/Solano.

The Nats bats are heating up enough now to compensate for Strasbergs' shutdown. Harper is a fast-developing star (see last nites' triple). The rest of the line-up is by no means the weak hitting team it was in the first half.

Luck (or chemistry) is manufactured. This team is winning games that historical Nats teams lost because they execute and take advantage of chances.

I bet on Harper, Zim, Desmond, Laroche, Morse (maybe Espinosa, maybe Werth) to carry us to round 1 of the playoffs. Anything else is gravy.

95southNatsFan said...

Flores is fine. He's been catching in 100 degree heat for a month, give him a break. It's amazing he can stand up between innings much less swing a bat.

Zimmerman11 said...

The only way to make this team better is to bring in an impact player. In order to do that the Nats would have to trade established major leaguers (which I'm okay with) and further deplete the farm system (which I'm not okay with). Best course of action, barring a steal of a deal out there somewhere, is to stay the course and hope that our young 'uns develop into those impact players.

Froggy said...

Flo the 'human bruise' is doing his job...calling good games and making good stops behind the plate. If the catcher gets hits, it's a bonus as far as I'm concerned.

Although, it doesn't appear that he has the arm for throwing out runners like Ramos does. Leon is coming back and Solano is doing decent. We are fine at catcher.

Donald said...

@Zimmerman11 -- the impact player they are hoping to add is Werth. I think every team has flaws. We can probably live with a weak hitting catcher if that's our biggest issue.

Steven Biel said...

Davey should get some stones and put Harper back there. And trade for Justin Upton. If Kevin Mitchell can play SS......