MLB Drew Butera: Lowering the Offensive Standards for Catchers Everywhere
As an amateur journalist, I am always wary in my criticism of professional athletes. There is a reason that they are paid millions of dollars to play a game, and there is a reason that I am not.
In the case of Minnesota Twins catcher Drew Butera, I don't feel that bad about it because I'm pretty sure I could do just as good of job as he is.
Since breaking into the majors in 2010, the son of former Minnesota Twins back-up catcher Sal Butera, Drew has been setting Twins franchise records—but not the good kind.
Statistically, Butera is making his run as the worst hitter in Twins/Senators history, going all the way back to 1901. His lifetime .176 average and .214 OBP are one of the worse for players for as many as career at-bats (353) as Butera has. Only Bob Porterfield (.179, .211 OBP, 374 AB), Walt Masterson (.140, .195 OBP, 408 AB), and Bob Groom (.125, .165 OBP, 457 AB) stand in Butera's way to be the worst hitter in team history.
But they were pitchers.
One of the biggest voids during the 2011 season for the last place Minnesota Twins has been the void of catchers' offense behind Joe Mauer, who has missed 66 games this season due to injury, illness and manager Ron Gardenhire's no-catching-a-day-game-after-a-night-game policy.
What should the Twins do about their back-up catcher next season?
With a position change looming for Mauer, who has played first base and right field this season, the Twins need somebody to step up behind the plate.
The Twins had their guy in highly-touted prospect Wilson Ramos, who was dealt to the Washington Nationals at the 2010 trade deadline, for All-Star closer Matt Capps. The Twins had just signed Mauer to his 10-year mega-deal, so Ramos was expendable. With closer Joe Nathan recovering from Tommy John surgery and the club's apparent lack of confidence in Jon Rauch (2-1, 3.05 ERA, 21/25 SV before the acquisition of Capps) as the closer, GM Bill Smith felt that the need for bullpen relief was needed.
With Capps' contract expiring in a few weeks and the Twins unlikely to re-sign him, the Twins will have essentially traded an everyday player for 90 innings of sub-par relief. As many Twins fans remember, there was a potential deal in place headlining Ramos that would have sent him to the Seattle Mariners along with OF Aaron Hicks in exchange for 2008 AL Cy Young Winner Cliff Lee, who was in the final year of his contract.
Maybe it's just me, but if we felt that we needed to trade Ramos, I would rather have had half a season of Cliff Lee (4-6, 3.98 ERA with Texas...career 7-2, 2.13 ERA in playoffs) than a season and a half of Matt Capps (6-6, 4.11 ERA, 31 SV).
Twins management have said numerous times that they are not in rebuilding mode and expect to contend for the AL Central crown in 2012. In order to do that, the Twins need help off the bench. With Jim Thome gone, OFs Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer rumored to be wanting to test the free agent market, finally giving up on OF Delmon Young, and OF Denard Span and 1B Justin Morneau's careers in jeopardy due to head injuries, the Twins will have their hands full fielding a competitive eight players than having to worry about a decent back-up catcher.
The Twins, however, have a history of bringing in veterans (Tony Bautista, Rondell White, Kenny Rogers, Jeff Cirillo, Livan Hernendez) that temporarily bridge the gaps between departing players and future starters. If Butera is unable to become at least a .220 hitter, which is sadly acceptable for a back-up cather, the Twins should bring in a veteran presence (a la Tom Prince, Henry Blanco, Mike Redmond) to back up Mauer. Potential free agents catchers that would fit in nicely behind Mauer would be Rod Barajas, Ivan Rodriguez, Jason Kendall, or Brian Schnieder.
An interesting, however extremely unlikely, scenario would be signing disgruntled Yankee catcher Jorge Posada. Posada, who has stated numerous times that he would be willing to leave the Yankees this off-season, would fit in nicely splitting time with Mauer behind the plate and would also be able play first base and DH. However, Posada will likely want to a) sign with a contender, b) be too expensive, or c) would not want to play in a small market.
The Twins have a tough off-season ahead of them if they want to contend in 2012. But if they want to want to keep using their DH for their pitchers instead of DHing for Butera, Twins management will have to step up to the plate and make some changes.
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