In defiance of God and the angels (regular, not Anaheim) and every projection coming into 2015, the Minnesota Twins are still eight games above .500 and in possession of one of the two American League wild card berths. This, of course, is a tenuous position with the Orioles, Tigers, Blue Jays, Rays, and maybe even the Indians within striking distance. The odds are still stacked firmly in favor of one of these clubs chasing them down from behind.
That's why the Twins are so interested in improving what, by rights, should not be a team that has played this well. Maybe, just maybe, they can hold on and make it to the postseason. And if you look at the Minnesota Twins from top to bottom, you see one massive glaring weakness stand out above all the other. I mean, you can't help it. After all, if you're watching a game from the center field camera, you're staring it right in his face. That weakness is Kurt Suzuki behind the plate.
Suzuki came out of nowhere last year to hit .288/.345/.383 and earn an All Star appearance and a contract extension for two years and $12 million. But after the All Star break, Suzuki faded badly, hitting just .253/.313/.362 over the last two and a half months of 2014, and has slumped all year this year, at .227/.283/.303. That's, by far, his worst performance as a major league player. Worse, Suzuki's defense typically grades out as awful. He doesn't have a plus arm behind the plate, and has caught just 19 percent of base stealers this season. He also has never been an effective pitch framer according to Baseball Prospectus. And at 31, given the beating he took as a young catcher, it would not be a surprise if he was done as an effective backstop.
When they've had problems thusfar in 2015, they've always been able to use internal solutions. Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Trevor May, Tommy Milone, and even Eduardo Nunez have all been used to plug holes caused by injuries or ineffectiveness. Every crisis has been borne by this club by turning inward and exploiting resources on hand.
Unfortunately, they can't do the same at catcher. Josmil Pinto, the only receiver in the upper minors who can hit, is a defensive disaster and is coming off of the concussion disabled list. After suffering multiple head injuries over the last two years, there's no guarantee he'll ever be able to catch again anyway, let alone replace Suzuki. No, the Twins will have to look outside.
No wonder, then, that Mike Berardino, of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, is reporting that the Twins are digging into the catcher market.
But the Twins are in an odd position. In spite of their lip service, and even if they manage to acquire a catcher, they have to know that they are long shots. With Buxton and Sano shelved at the moment, they are still a leaky ship. The Twins can't afford to give up long term potential building blocks like Jose Berrios any more than they could earlier in the year. They have expendable players to trade who they've soured on (guys like Oswaldo Arcia and Kennys Vargas), lesser starting prospects (Taylor Rogers) and relievers (Michael Tonkin, Alex Meyer, Nick Burdi), but those won't get you very deep into the list of available catchers. Possibly, their best options are second-tier guys like Dioner Navarro in Toronto, AJ Pierzynski in Atlanta, Brayan Pena in Cincinnati, or maybe Nick Hundley in Colorado. Paying to acquire anything more, like a Jonathan Lucroy or a Derek Norris really isn't worth the risk for a team that, regardless of who they acquire, is far more likely to be sitting at home in October than playing baseball.