Twins assistant GM Rob Antony joined 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson on his latest podcast episode, discussing a wide range of topics from Jason Castro’s season-ending injury, to some pending free agents, some health updates on injured players and prospects to watch at the team’s Class-A club (audio link, with Antony joining for about 20 minutes beginning at 24:30). Most notably, Antony and Wolfson discuss not only the specifics of Castro’s injury, but the organization’s potential need to pursue outside help at catcher.
Regarding the injury to Castro, Antony explains that initial imaging on the catcher’s knee revealed some tearing in the meniscus, but both Twins doctors and independent doctors who were consulted agreed that Castro would be able to return this season with a minor cleanup. (His initial prognosis upon being scheduled for surgery was around six weeks.) Upon performing the surgery, however, the tearing was found to be extensive enough that without a full repair of the meniscus, Castro’s career as a catcher would’ve been in jeopardy.
It doesn’t sound as if one singular incident this season led to the issue for Castro, who has had meniscus and ACL injuries in the past. In fact, Antony notes that Castro had no issues running straight or even catching, but the knee bothered him greatly when rotating through his swing at the plate and rounding the bases. Certainly, Castro’s .143/.257/.238 slash — down from .242/.333/.388 a year prior — exemplifies the difficulties he had on offense.
Initial reports have suggested that Minnesota won’t rush out to make a significant addition behind the plate. La Velle E. Neal of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported the other night that while the team is discussing its options, no decisions have been made (Twitter links). Neal suggested that if anything, the club could add a veteran depth piece to stash in Triple-A in order to give them further options beyond rookie Mitch Garver, now the team’s No. 1 catcher, and veteran backup Bobby Wilson.
Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press expressed similar views in profiling how Garver, long rated as one of the organization’s more promising prospects, is in line to receive a legitimate opportunity to show he can handle the primary job. Garver hit .291/.387/.541 with 17 homers in Triple-A last season and is off to a .254/.309/.413 start in 68 plate appearances with the Twins in 2018. Antony did nothing to suggest that Garver won’t be given a real chance, but he did indicate that the team is actively exploring the market for help.
“I would say it’s probably safe to say we’re going to have to acquire somebody, whether it’s for insurance or to be on the big league squad as a [number] one or two [option],” Antony said. “…I don’t think we’re going to sell the farm to acquire a catcher that’s not going to be an impact guy and is kind of a ’tide you over until Castro is ready next year,’ but we will look to see if we can improve our situation and our depth, definitely.”
Per Antony, the club is more confident in Garver’s bat than that of Wilson, but the Twins also believe Wilson to be a more polished defender than Garver. So while Garver seems in line to shoulder most of the load, it’s possible that Wilson sees slightly more playing time than a true backup, though surely their on-field performances will ultimately dictate the timeshare.
In the meantime, the Twins have received calls from other clubs with catchers to offer, per Antony, but conversations with those teams “have not progressed to the point where we’re deep in talks with anybody right now.”
Certainly, there are teams around the league with catching options to offer. Marlins star J.T. Realmuto was among the most oft-discussed trade candidates of the past offseason and figures to be a staple on the rumor circuit again this summer, though he’ll have an enormous price tag attached to him with two and a half years of club control remaining. Seldom-used Red Sox catcher/outfielder/first baseman Blake Swihart will also be on the rumor circuit until what feels like an inevitable trade is completed following this week’s trade request from his agent. The Rays, meanwhile, probably wouldn’t mind shedding the salary of hot-hitting Wilson Ramos while simultaneously adding a piece or two of intrigue to their minor league ranks.
As far as depth options who are unsigned at present, Miguel Montero (released by the Nationals last month), Carlos Ruiz (reportedly playing in his native Panama) and Geovany Soto are among the most notable available names.