By: Noah Wright
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Behind middle infield, The Brewers worst offensive position this year was probably catcher, but on the other end, it was probably one of their best defensive positions on the field. While the current catchers they’ve been using have been getting the job done, it’s definitely a position the team should, at the very least, look into investing in this upcoming off season.
Their Current Situation:
The Brewers could just stick with the current catching duo of Manny Pina and Erik Kratz, since that’s not been a bad duo this season. The main guy getting the lion’s share of the workload behind the plate has been Pina. He’s a light hitting catcher (like many in today’s game), batting just .249/.307/.396 with 9 home runs, and 26 RBI’s in 323 plate appearances. He’s also not helped the team in wRC+ at just 86. However that’s not why he’s on the team. He’s on the team because of his defensive ability. Pina is one of the better defensive catchers in the game, and currently has 4 DRS, and worth .8 dWAR. He has also been one to be weary if you are on base, as he’s caught 41% of runners taking off. Erik Kratz is on the team for similar reasons. His batting line of .251/.298/.383 may not be too impressive, but he’s been worth 2 DRS, .3 dWAR, and has caught 29% of runners. Kratz also provides value in his pitch framing abilities, being worth 7.5 framing runs. All told, the duo has caught 35% of runners, which is well above league average, but have combined for only a .248/.302/.338 batting line
Their Other Options?:
One of the easiest ways The Brew Crew could improve their catching situation is by signing someone on The FA market. The best option hitting the open market is Yasmani Grandal. The current Dodgers catcher provides both a big bat (24 home runs, 122 wRC+, .226 ISO) and defensive ability (7 DRS, 26% of runners caught, .5 defensive WAR). He currently has an overall slashline of .233/.344/.459. One of their other options could be current Phillie backstop Wilson Ramos. He’s had a terrific bounceback season after a down 2017. He’s been just as productive, if not more than, Grandal with the bat, batting .313/.363/.497, and 134 wRC+ in 406 PA’s between The Rays and Phillies. But his defensive ability is something that they’d have to sacrifice. While he’s not a complete liability, he’s not helping the team all that much, as he’s been worth .1 dWAR, -3 DRS, and has caught 29% of runners. One of the last options The Brewers could pursue on the FA market is Kurt Suzuki. Suzuki would definitely bring a bigger bat behind the plate, as this has been his second straight season with double digit home runs (12 in 2018). Plus he carries a solid slashline of .272/.333/.448, and wRC+ ranks him as an average to above average offensive player with 109. But signing Suzuki means sacrificing some defense. This season, he’s been OK in terms of metrics, with -4 DRS and .6 dWAR, but he’s struggled to throw runners out. His career norm is about 24%, but this season it’s dipped to 17%. Pitch framing is another thing The Brew Crew would be giving up with Suzuki, for he’s been worth -4.4 framing runs.
The trading market isn’t as deep as the FA market, but there are still some nice options out there. The most notable will be Marlins’ J.T. Realmuto. It’s pretty clear that Realmuto is one of the best, if not the best catcher in The MLB right now. His batting line of .284/.384/.498 is one of the best in The NL, and it also represents a power breakout. This is his highest slugging %, home run total of 24 and counting, RBI total of 73 and counting, and ISO of his career. J.T.’s defense is also a valuable asset. While he may only be worth -4 DRS, and .3 dWAR, he has caught 39% of runners trying to take a base off of him, which is 11% higher than the league average. His caught stealing total is high because of him having one of the best reaction/pop times in The MLB, 7th among all catchers. He’s also team controllable through 2020. One of the other options on the trading market is Royals’ Salvador Perez. Perez, like many catchers, is a very defensive heavy catcher, but he can still crank the ball. That’s indicated by his 27 home runs, and .209 ISO. However one of Perez’s biggest weaknesses is his OBP, which has dropped to a career low .273. However his glove and arm is the main attraction for Perez. He’s leading the league in caught stealing percentage again at 49%. That helps him get a 1 DRS, but a 1.4 dWAR rating. This option also gives The Brewers a good catcher for 3 years of control after 2018. However The Brewers biggest problem may be prospects in either of these trades. If rumors are true, The Marlins may be asking for a truckload of top prospects for Realmuto, but they may be able to acquire Salvador from The Royals, but that’s assuming that they won’t be asking for 2+ top 100 prospects.
Whether The Brewers decide to go with the in house options they have now, or decide to go out and acquire a new catcher, they’ll be fine either route if you ask me. Manny Pina can be a regular catcher, despite his offensive struggles, which seems to becoming a norm for some teams deciding on catcher. The Brewers going out to acquire an upgrade over Pina would definitely help, but it is not something that should be their top priority. But with the team not having that one ace starter, they will most likely turn their resources to that, rather than finding a catcher.