The Twins are among the teams that are “aggressively digging” into the market for catching upgrades, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney in his daily blog (Insider subscription required and recommended). Olney notes that Minnesota may prove to be a landing spot for free agent Jason Castro, adding that there’s an expectation within the industry that Castro will receive at least a three-year deal. As of last week, Castro was said to have offers from three AL clubs, and the Twins were rumored to be reconvening with his reps sometime this week, perhaps to make an offer of their own.
Olney notes that Castro excels at pitch-framing, and new Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey comes from an Indians organization that heavily emphasized that skill. I noted as much when previewing the Twins’ winter in MLBTR’s Offseason Outlook series, and Castro does indeed fit that mold quite well. It’s also perhaps telling that Kurt Suzuki, who has been the Twins’ primary catcher for the past three seasons despite consistently poor framing marks, seemingly drew little interest from the Indians following Yan Gomes’ injury. Cleveland continued to deploy the light-hitting Roberto Perez as its primary backstop due largely to his proficiency in stealing extra strikes.
Of course, Castro is hardly the only option available to the Twins. The free-agent market also offers options like Matt Wieters and Wilson Ramos, and Minnesota could also look to buy low on San Diego’s Derek Norris, who had a down year at the plate but excelled at getting extra strike calls for his pitchers. New York’s Brian McCann is widely known to be available in trades, but the Twins hardly seem to be in a position to take on a significant portion of McCann’s deal and surrender prospects in order to acquire him from the Bronx. Plus, given the team’s MLB-worst finish in 2016, McCann probably wouldn’t be keen on waiving his no-trade clause to approve a deal there.
Catching is merely one area of need for the Twins, but it’s a glaring one that could also benefit their justifiably maligned pitching staff. Minnesota catchers hit just .249/.295/.378 this past season, with the bulk of that offense coming from Suzuki, who is now a free agent. John Ryan Murphy, acquired this time last November with the hope that he could become the team’s long-term option behind the plate, took a massive step back and batted just .146/.193/.220 in 90 MLB plate appearances in addition to a similarly discouraging .236/.286/.323 in 290 Triple-A PAs. Journeyman Juan Centeno posted a respectable .261/.312/.392 line in 192 PAs but comes with little track record and drew very negative marks in most defensive categories.