On Thursday, the San Diego Padres landed Christian Bethancourt in exchange for RHP Casey Kelly and 17-year old back stop, Ricardo Rodriguez. That leaves them with four catchers on the active roster. Those four are Derek Norris, Austin Hedges, recently acquired Josmil Pinto, and Christian Bethancourt.
So what are the options for the Padres?
Last year the Padres stuck with Derek Norris as their everyday catcher. Out of all qualified catchers, Norris finished 5th in WAR, finishing in front of the likes of Salvador Perez, Stephen Vogt, and Yadier Molina. He threw out 34% of his base runners and finished with a +4 defensive runs saved. He also slashed .250/.305/.404 with 14 HRs and 62 RBIs. Norris turns 27 in February and is set to hit his arbitration years through 2018, his age 29 season. Norris has the highest trade value out of all four catchers and, word is Preller has been shopping him and Hedges around.
Hedges was the Padres 2nd rated prospect last season. He’s graded to have an 80 glove but a 20 bat. He was highly misused last season, after the Padres brought him up in May and only allowed him to get 152 plate appearances where he slashed .168/.215/.248. Defensively, he had a +3 defensive runs saved in only 350+ innings and threw out 32% of would be base stealers. He finished with a minus WAR but that was highly due to his bat being well behind his glove. Hedges seems to be a lot like Bethancourt, as in they’re both a very high rated glove with a bat that may never catch up.
Bethancourt and Pinto are out of options. One of them will most likely be designated for assignment, allowing them to either be claimed off waivers or go to Triple A El Paso. The Bethancourt trade to me says they are most likely getting more hits on Hedges than they are Norris and, therefore, they traded for the next best thing and can deal Hedges for big league talent.
I think that’s the best way to go. To me, Hedges screams backup. A guy who has never hit in any level and has a good glove is the definition of that. I think a tandem of Norris and Bethancourt will work well for San Diego next season. Hedges could be used in a package deal to land a shortstop or a left fielder. Hedges’ best aspect, his defense, also got considerably worse the more he played. Hedges is the type of player that CAN succeed in the show, but his bat is and will always be the one thing holding him back. On a team like the Padres where offense is still limited, having a black hole in the lineup like his is very bad to the team and could kill the limited amount of rallies that the Padres put up during the course of a game. Norris fits well with what the Padres need. His defense got exceptionally better last season and his offense, at a position in which offense is really limited, makes him all that more valuable.
If the Padres could deal Hedges for a shortstop, it’ll leave them with Norris and Bethancourt behind the dish, and gets Alexi Amarista back to the bench and out of the everyday starting lineup. That upgrades the Padres tremendously, while keeping a core piece like Norris around and not losing much defense in Bethancourt, either. I think this should be the way Preller goes, and I won’t be surprised to see it happen.