The Once and Future Catchers

Sprowl

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The Red Sox have big decisions to make about their 2023 catchers. Christian Vazquez, once their catcher until Bloom traded him away at the deadline for prospects, is a free agent. Vazquez likes Boston and Cora likes Vazquez, but Bloom's opinion is the one that counts.

Should the Red Sox sign Vazquez as a free agent? Vazquez rates well at the bat (for a catcher), and his defense historically has been highly regarded. He is aging, however, and Bloom does not seem to think Vazquez is as good as his past reputation. He's not a framing savant anymore (that appears to be Jose Trevino), and his pop times are middle aged. My guess is that Bloom will be bidding for another RHB lead catcher, with McGuire as platoon partner and primary backup. Who is that RHB lead catcher? I ask SoSH.

Reese McGuire looks like a keeper. He hit very well in Boston (.877 OPS), and looks like a good candidate for the LHB half of a platoon at catcher. His defensive numbers look promising, and he should be relatively durable at the most demanding position (ie, as butt of game thread jokes). He doesn't hit LHP very well, but the samples are still fairly small. He doesn't have much power, but he hits many line drives to RF, and should benefit from the ban on shifting. Is McGuire good enough on defense to justify being the primary catcher in a LHB/RHB platoon? I'm thinking: not yet.

Ronaldo Hernandez is out of options in 2023, and still did not merit a late-season call-up. He may once have been Bloom's option at future catcher, but Chaim does not appear pleased with this roll of the dice. My guess is that Bloom will be quick to cut bait.

The honor of the call-up went to Connor Wong, who had a brief power outburst in August, but otherwise hasn't shown much beyond positional versatility to justify a spot on a major-league roster. A McGuire-Wong platoon looks like a shaky foundation for the AL East's worst pitching staff.

Kevin Plawecki rated poorly in 2022 both at the bat and behind the plate. He is unlikely to return in 2023, but I mention him for the sake of completeness. If not Plawecki, Wong or Hernandez, then who?

My number search was cursory, mostly from Fangraphs DRS and framing data. What's the best source for catching defensive data these days?
 

JBJ_HOF

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I doubt Bloom has a catcher preference, look at what they did in Tampa, alternated between all-bat guys and all-glove guys.

Wilson Ramon, John Jaso, Travis d'Arnaud, Jose Lobaton. Jose Molina, Rene Rivers, Curt Casali, Kelly Shoppach. Mike Zunino.

The one thing is clear, the Red Sox were trying to get rid of Vazquez for multiple years before finally doing so, and when he went to the Astros they didn't even give a thought to having him start over Maldonado. That tells you all you need to know.

My bet is the catching situation is status quo for next year and the Sox catchers finish middle of the pack with a 85 OPS+ and there is not much complaining about McGuire and Wong, but everyone is clamoring for Nathan Hickey by next summer.
 

mikeford

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Reese McGuire looks like a keeper. He hit very well in Boston (.877 OPS), and looks like a good candidate for the LHB half of a platoon at catcher. His defensive numbers look promising, and he should be relatively durable at the most demanding position (ie, as butt of game thread jokes). He doesn't hit LHP very well, but the samples are still fairly small. He doesn't have much power, but he hits many line drives to RF, and should benefit from the ban on shifting. Is McGuire good enough on defense to justify being the primary catcher in a LHB/RHB platoon? I'm thinking: not yet.
With this in mind, should we not splash the cash on Wilson Contreras?

Better numbers against LHP than RHP. Better overall catcher than McGuire by a large part so you could still use him against RHP and just use McGuire as a true backup instead of a platoon.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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Contreras looks like a perfect candidate to start to really regress- hard and fast IMO.

Someone posted elsewhere that Hernandez actually isn’t out of options but I can’t find that info. He really needs a chance. Very good bat and scouting has his defense as improving.

But I like the status quo. It’ll be serviceable at worst as a tandem with a higher ceiling.

I’m glad Vaz is gone. Now Cora with him!
 

billy ashley

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I think it's pretty clear that they're going cheap at catcher next year.

Wong and McGuire should be a decent pair. Wong's defense has really improved since being acquired and he's shown real growth offensively. The cut in his K rate was promising last season. I think there are reasons to believe he won't be terrible offensively and that's the only bar he has to clear.

His baseball-savant numbers suggest he's a really good throwing catcher and all the feedback of his defense has been positive.

Also, Hernandez has another option year for next year. This only broke over the last couple days, but I think that's part of the AAA depth plan. They need someone with a better defensive reputation as an emergency catcher in AAA, too.
 

BravesField

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I think it's pretty clear that they're going cheap at catcher next year.

Wong and McGuire should be a decent pair. Wong's defense has really improved since being acquired and he's shown real growth offensively. The cut in his K rate was promising last season. I think there are reasons to believe he won't be terrible offensively and that's the only bar he has to clear.

His baseball-savant numbers suggest he's a really good throwing catcher and all the feedback of his defense has been positive.

Also, Hernandez has another option year for next year. This only broke over the last couple days, but I think that's part of the AAA depth plan. They need someone with a better defensive reputation as an emergency catcher in AAA, too.
I'm with you. With the impending rule changes for 2023, a catcher who can throw guys out will be a premium. I too am OK with Wong and McGuire.
 

Max Power

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Offense at catcher around the league is generally poor. It doesn't strike me as the best use of resources to pay a lot of money to get a 110 OPS+ out of your catcher when the same amount could get a 130 OPS+ OF/DH. I'd stick with the cheap guys behind the plate and use the money on the outfield and bullpen.
 

GB5

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I thought McGuire came from the White Sox with the rep as a good defender with a light bat. How was his D viewed in his few months here? His bat was fantastic and even though it’s a small sample I think where Chaim traded for him I think he is the opening day backstop unless something they can’t walk away from jumps up in a trade.

I don’t think Vaz is wanted back by the front office. I guess the only qualifier is the potential that his market is cratering as he rides the pine for the Astros and he wants to take a short money 1 year deal to prove himself. Even then I don’t think they take him back.
 

Whoop-La White

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Catcher seems like a position where offense blooms late if it shows up at all. Vazquez himself came up as a defense-first catcher who didn’t hit at all for four seasons (.632 OPS in 999 PAs) until he added loft and turned flyouts in home runs. So it doesn’t seem an outrageous plan to give a longer leash to younger players.

A rebuilding team is going to have to go with greener candidates at some positions. McGuire & Wong provide two inexpensive complementary options with fundamentally strong baselines and a realistic chance to grow into something more. If you reach midseason and they’ve both liabilities on a team that is otherwise contending, then you look to the trade market or see what Hernandez has if he’s ready.
 

chrisfont9

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Don't the Sox have one built-in advantage in situations like this where they are combing the market for a replacement-level bat -- guys who hit balls in the air to left? They can squeeze a bit more value out of any number of hitters who would be more comfortable in Fenway, not just because of the short porch but also the hitting background. It's not Earth-shattering stuff, but it can be the difference between a guy who's truly a negative with the bat versus someone who contributes a bit.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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Expand on that? I don't watch NL baseball so I really haven't seen the guy actually play.
Mostly age and usage. 7 years as basically the starting C, going to be 31. I suspect he'll get a 4-5 year contract and be healthy for one of those. Maybe he'd be good enough to move to 1B offensively, but I don't see that either.
Seems the lifespan on starting C over the last 20 years has been trending downward unless they start behind the plate a little later at the ML level or are more heavily platooned
 

chawson

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I've been back and forth on Willson Contreras. I like him, but I don't see Bloom shelling out for a catcher into his mid-/late-thirties. The blog Bleacher Report predicts Contreras will get 6/$132M, which...no thanks.

I kinda like the idea of bringing Mike Zunino in on a 1/$3 or so deal and pairing him with McGuire for a year. It'd give Wong and Hernandez a little more development time (they each have another option), and Fenway would be a good pillow contract location for him to show he's healthy. Zunino had a lost/hurt year in '22, but he annihilated left-handed pitching in 2021 (1.287 OPS) and is hopefully still a terrific defender.

Maybe he goes full Napoli for us, but if he's got nothing by June, it'll be pretty easy to pivot to Wong or Hernández if they're ready.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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I think that’s a good idea but I hate the idea of having 4 catchers on the 40-man for another year. I think it hurt the team this year; would love if they could find a way for the 40-man to have more position players that can help.
 

BravesField

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I've been back and forth on Willson Contreras. I like him, but I don't see Bloom shelling out for a catcher into his mid-/late-thirties. The blog Bleacher Report predicts Contreras will get 6/$132M, which...no thanks.
I know right?
How is it remotely possible this guy gets 6 years at 132, when Salvator Perez (2 years older), only got 4 years at 82?
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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I know right?
How is it remotely possible this guy gets 6 years at 132, when Salvator Perez (2 years older), only got 4 years at 82?
I don't think it's that outrageous an estimate. I'm not saying I'd pay it, but especially if we're using Salvador Perez as the baseline, it's not outlandish at all.

Perez signed his deal a year before he hit free agency, right after his age 30 season, so presumably there's a bit of a hometown discount situation. Add in the remaining year from his previous deal (13.5) and the option at the end (13.5) and the grand total for Perez's age 31-36 seasons is 6/106. 6/132 for a better hitter on a full fledged free agent contract with presumably multiple bidders strikes me as entirely realistic.

Perez through age 30: .269/.300/.449/.749, 101 OPS+, 3893 PA
Contreras through age 30: .256/.349/.459/.808, 115 OPS+, 2859 PA
 
Aug 31, 2006
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I think Bloom's guy this offseason is Mike Zunino. He played for Bloom in Tampa, he's got great right-handed power for Fenway, he complements McGuire's left-handed bat, gets rave reviews on defense (+51 DRS over his career according to the Fielding Bible, for example), and he'll almost certainly be looking for a one-year deal to prove he's healthy.

I can't see spending $80 to $100 million (or more) for Willson Contreras, and I think Sean Murphy will cost a lot more than some people think, if he's traded at all.

If not Zunino, I could certainly see Bloom inquiring about Travis d'Arnaud, who has one year left on an $8 million AAV contract and looks expendable in Atlanta with the emergence of William Contreras behind the plate.
 

Yelling At Clouds

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Does Zunino’s recent TOS surgery rule him out? Would he be recovered by February if he had it in late July?
 

YTF

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He should have a fairly normal offseason according to this late August report.

Surgery was on his non-throwing shoulder, fwiw.
I'll assume it was on one of his two bat swinging shoulders though. ;) Most of the MLB TOS surgeries that I can recall have been on pitchers. Is there any sort of track record for position players and how it has affected them offensively.
 

jon abbey

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Surprised to not see any followup research on Caleb Hamilton, actually on the 40 man now.
 

Just a bit outside

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Surprised to not see any followup research on Caleb Hamilton, actually on the 40 man now.
Hamilton hit in AAA this year and it was really the first time he has hit in his career. He walks and strikes out a lot. He seems like organizational filler. He is a 26 year old who can catch and play the other corner positions. I wonder what Bloom sees in him.
 

Sin Duda

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I noticed Zunino, too, over in the 2023 thread, as the second best WAR FA catcher ('21-22) available. I'm okay with the current two, but I'd be okay with a 1year pillow contract for Mike Z too.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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Yeah…. Out of the positions and issues that need to be addressed this off-season, C is the least important. IMO they already have at least an average combined battery there.

1- SS situation
2a- Rotation
2b- Bullpen
The two are linked at this point until they decide where to move forward with Whitlock. If he’s moved to the rotation then it (the rotation) moves to 4 on level of importance and the bullpen stays as 2. Inverse if he stays in the pen.
3- RF/ outfield configuration
4- Devers
5- DH/rotation rest spot?
6- Catcher
 

nvalvo

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Surprised to not see any followup research on Caleb Hamilton, actually on the 40 man now.
Hard to know what to think of him. The offensive profile is mixed at best and it’s so hard to get reasonable assessments of minor league defense for prospects who aren’t high end. He’s been a multi-position dude in the minors, which clouds things even further.

In my mind, he’s the needed second AAA catcher that signals they’re rolling with McGuire and Wong, but who knows if I’m right about that.
 

Sprowl

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Two months later, Christian Vazquez has signed with the Twins, Sean Murphy has been traded to the Braves, and Willson Contreras has signed with the Cardinals. The Red Sox have bid an unsentimental goodbye to their longtime catcher, with two plausible prospects to show for it, and now face 2023 as @nvalvo predicted with a platoon of McGuire and Wong pencilled in at catcher. They're not an inspiring duo, but they're cheap. They're also young, which to my mind usually corresponds to an underperforming pitching staff.

Given how badly the rest of the offseason has gone, perhaps muddling through at catcher is the logical outcome of a failed rebuilding project.
 

jon abbey

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The Mets would love someone to take James McCann, I’m sure.
 

jwbasham84

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It was my understanding, and I have been wrong many times, that McGuire was a solid defensive catcher with decent framing and a strong arm. The bat was his big question. From the very SSS I thought he looked fine last year behind the plate. Wong is the ? In that platoon IMHO.
 

simplicio

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Yeah, McGuire is the clear primary catcher currently; he offered better defense and bat than Wong this year. If we did take McCann I hope he'd still retain that role and we'd send Wong back to AAA (or simply trade/release McCann, he was pretty bad last year and not a clear upgrade from Wong)
 
Aug 31, 2006
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The Mets would love someone to take James McCann, I’m sure.
If the Mets were willing to attach a prospect to McCann in order to unload his entire salary, Bloom should be all over that.

However, given the Mets spending habits I'm finding it hard to believe at the present moment that Steve Cohen really cares about saving $24 million at the expense of player development...
 

simplicio

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As is, Cohen is set to pay $44 million over the next two years for McCann due to luxury taxes. For a guy who's the third best catcher on the team.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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As is, Cohen is set to pay $44 million over the next two years for McCann due to luxury taxes. For a guy who's the third best catcher on the team.
I don't think that's quite true. Luxury tax for the Mets is looking like 90%, but it's 90% of the overage, not 90% of the total. So McCann isn't costing Cohen $44M, more like $30M or so if you allocated the overage tax proportionally to every player on the roster.
 

simplicio

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But every dollar of AAV he cuts off the top end is $1.90 saved (and $2.10 next year if the team remains over, which they're currently in position to do) until they get below that line, proportionality doesn't really come into play.
 

Rovin Romine

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It was my understanding, and I have been wrong many times, that McGuire was a solid defensive catcher with decent framing and a strong arm. The bat was his big question. From the very SSS I thought he looked fine last year behind the plate. Wong is the ? In that platoon IMHO.
Pretty much: https://www.baseballprospectus.com/player/101630/reese-mcguire/

His defense was highly rated in the minors, and the bat was always a concern.

Catcher numbers are hard to quantify in some areas. That said, McGuire tied Trevino for the AL lead in caught stealing percentage at 33%. If you think the running game is going to expand next year, McGuire seems like a definite asset in that area. Which is good, because our overall numbers were bad in 2022:

https://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/AL/2022-specialpos_c-fielding.shtml

Wong was bad, but SSS of 20 games, so I'd look at the MiL numbers if you can find them: https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/wongco01.shtml
Plawecki was abysmal, and has been for 2 years now: https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/p/plaweke01.shtml
(Numbers might be skewed if Plaw was caddying a particularly slow pitcher or something.)

The 2022 AL average was 82 steals per team with 27 CS at a 25% rate, which means 99 attempts on average. The Sox were at the high end with 130 attempts. I don't know if that will hold true next year, but a 10%(?) increase in attempts gets you an average of 108 attempts and (hopefully not) 143 against the Sox.

I'd be curious to see if anyone has broken down how impactful stealing is - like how many of those steals were in junk time or couldn't meaningfully affect the outcome of a game. But I think in a close scoring game you probably want McGuire in there defensively over Wong. (Also over Vaz and Plaw.)




 
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shepard50

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Pretty much: https://www.baseballprospectus.com/player/101630/reese-mcguire/

His defense was highly rated in the minors, and the bat was always a concern.

Catcher numbers are hard to quantify in some areas. That said, McGuire tied Trevino for the AL lead in caught stealing percentage at 33%. If you think the running game is going to expand next year, McGuire seems like a definite asset in that area. Which is good, because our overall numbers were bad in 2022:

https://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/AL/2022-specialpos_c-fielding.shtml

Wong was bad, but SSS of 20 games, so I'd look at the MiL numbers if you can find them: https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/wongco01.shtml
Plawecki was abysmal, and has been for 2 years now: https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/p/plaweke01.shtml
(Numbers might be skewed if Plaw was caddying a particularly slow pitcher or something.)

The 2022 AL average was 82 steals per team with 27 CS at a 25% rate, which means 99 attempts on average. The Sox were at the high end with 130 attempts. I don't know if that will hold true next year, but a 10%(?) increase in attempts gets you an average of 108 attempts and (hopefully not) 143 against the Sox.

I'd be curious to see if anyone has broken down how impactful stealing is - like how many of those steals were in junk time or couldn't meaningfully affect the outcome of a game. But I think in a close scoring game you probably want McGuire in there defensively over Wong. (Also over Vaz and Plaw.)




The pitch clock goes into effect next year at 15 seconds, but with runners on a 'still not generous' 20 seconds. What effect do we think that will have on the steal rate? Would we assume that with less time for pitch calling, there is also less time to implement steal defense play calling? Or is my thinking off?
 

Rovin Romine

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The pitch clock goes into effect next year at 15 seconds, but with runners on a 'still not generous' 20 seconds. What effect do we think that will have on the steal rate? Would we assume that with less time for pitch calling, there is also less time to implement steal defense play calling? Or is my thinking off?
I would guess that the results from the minor leagues would translate to MLB. . .with the caveat that there is usually more stealing in the minors anyway. https://www.mlb.com/news/how-pitch-clock-is-working-in-minor-leagues-in-2022

I don't think it would really impact the players outside of the SS and 2B. Story's a rock out there.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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McGuire was a great pickup and is going to be overall better than Vaz at a fraction of the cost.
What’s the problem with that?

I still am bullish on Hernandez after ‘23 and think Wong will be decent.