Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the San Diego Padres are kicking the tires on Christian Bethancourt. The ultra athletic catcher has been deemed expendable since the Braves signings of catchers A.J. Pierzynski and Tyler Flowers. Pierzynski and Flowers provide the perfect left/right combination for the Braves behind the plate.
The Padres are currently stocked at the position with Derek Norris and Austin Hedges both returning from last season. The team also recently put in a claim on catcher Josmil Pinto formerly of the Minnesota Twins and Rocky Gale was recently re-signed to a minor league contract. That leaves three or four capable major league catcher. So why would the team be interested in a project like Bethancourt?
It is no secret that A.J. Preller is looking to make some big moves. The catching situation in San Diego has left the Padres with an excess of talent. Either Hedges or Norris can be an excellent starter in the major leagues, and both players are quite different in terms of their value.
Hedges would be described as a defense first catcher. He receives the ball very well and is blessed with a rocket arm. His bat is lacking at the moment all though he has recently shown signs of improvement. Hedges is still only 23 years old and to say he will never hit is a bit presumptuous. His defensive skill set alone will ensure he has a long major league career. The question is will it be as a starter or a defensive backup.
Derek Norris has great leadership abilities and is tough as nails behind the dish. He was constantly beat up last season by foul tips but never backed down the whole season long. He also has a very solid bat and could develop into an offensive force behind the plate. His defensive skills are in question and Hedges is widely regarded as the better defender of the two.
The claim put in on Josmil Pinto earlier this offseason seemed strange. Pinto is regarded as an offensive catcher who lacks defensive ability. He has nice power but is out of major league options and would need to be kept on the 25 man roster by the Padres. His addition alone brought speculation that the team was shopping a catcher.
Now with recent rumors of the Padres interest in Bethancourt brings even more speculation that the team is indeed looking to move a catcher. So who would the team move and what teams would be interested? The team that is known to be looking for catching help the most is the Texas Rangers. The Rangers have checked in on Jonathan Lucroy from the Milwaukee Brewers, but a deal does not seem likely.
The Rangers are an intriguing trade option for the Padres as A.J. Preller cut his teeth for the Rangers working for the team prior to being hired by the Padres. He has direct knowledge of the farm system and could easily handpick some lesser known prospects. Jurickson Profar makes an interesting option for the Padres. He can play shortstop but is recovering from back to back shoulder injuries and has slowly been given medical clearance. The former #1 prospect in all of baseball has a very high risk attached to his name but he is still only 22 years old.
As for Bethancourt he has a skill set similar to Hedges in the fact he is described as a defensive catcher with minimal offensive tools. The 24-year-old is 11 months older than Austin Hedges and has two years of major league service time. He has played in 80 games and amassed 269 at bats. He holds a .219/.245/.283 batting line with two home runs and 21 RBIs. He has struck out 60 times and walked only eight times. His bat is a work in progress.
His defensive skill lies mainly in his rocket arm. Bethancourt is described as lacking receiving skills and needs to fix that issue. He has totaled 14 passed balls and 18 wild pitches in 617 innings behind the plate. To put that in perspective Norris (an average defender) has 31 passed balls in his career in a grand total of 3,070 innings behind the plate.
Bethancourt is a project and the Padres might be better off moving on. He is out of options and so is Pinto. They cannot carry three catchers so even if Norris or Hedges were dealt the Padres would still have an issue. With A.J. Preller calling the shots, anything can happen so who knows what is going on. Bethancourt provides an interesting option but based on the Padres current situation, he is not a likely trade acquisition.