The Twins are bringing in catcher Alex Avila on a one-year, $4.25 million deal, reports ESPN’s Jeff Passan:
Catcher Alex Avila and the Minnesota Twins are in agreement on a one-year, $4.25 million deal, sources tell ESPN. The catching market continues to move quickly, and the veteran left-handed hitter will join the Bomba Squad.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 6, 2019
Avila is coming off a two-year stint with the Diamondbacks, and after a disastrous 2018 campaign during which he was counted on to be Arizona’s primary catcher and posted a miserable .165/.299/.304 slash line with seven homers in 234 plate appearances, the soon-to-be 33-year-old bounced back a bit in 2019 while serving as more of a backup to Carson Kelly. Over 201 PAs, Avila hit .207/.353/.421 with nine home runs. After being considered a below-average defensive catcher for most of his career, Avila enjoyed his second straight strong season behind the plate (at least according to defensive metrics), posting seven defensive runs saved while grading out solidly as a pitch framer, posting 2.8 framing runs according to FanGraphs.
Barring extremely unforeseen events, the addition of Avila means that free agent Jason Castro is out of the picture for 2020, with Avila replacing him as the left-handed-hitting portion of a catching platoon alongside Mitch Garver. While there was a relatively even split between Castro and Garver in 2019 — Garver started 73 and Castro started 72 (Willians Astudillo also got 17 starts and could factor into that mix again in 2020) — it’s possible that Garver will get a more significant share of the playing time next season, both because the Twins will want to reward him after posting a .995 OPS with 31 homers in 2019, and because Avila is pretty clearly a downgrade from Castro.