Another Catcher of the Future?


I was in Baltimore for a conference this past weekend and beginning of the week, which left me with almost no internet access, so I’ve been trying to catch up with all of the Royals stories. There’s a surprisingly large number of them for this time of year, but one this morning caught my eye.

The Royals are interested in acquiring a young catcher.

Now, maybe this isn’t all that surprising. Many thought the Royals might sign another elderly catcher over the offseason to fill Jason Kendall‘s spot until he returned. I originally bought into this, but it soon seemed like that wasn’t the plan. With Brayan Pena, Luke May, and Manny Pina all either at the major league level or close enough to play, it didn’t seem that bringing in another catcher would be necessary. Still, here we are.

I was left shaking my head and asking “Why?” when I read the story.

So, why could this be? Why would the Royals spurn their three young or reasonably young backstops to acquire one from a mystery team?

The main reason has to be that they simply don’t like these guys. In some ways, I can understand that. I’ve always been a Brayan Pena fan if only because he represented a change from Jason Kendall. I still feel that Pena never deserved the treatment he received last season when Kendall started nearly all of the games in the first half of the season. Nonetheless, we all have to face the fact that Pena just isn’t any more than an average catcher. He’d be a respectable backup, but he truly isn’t a starting catcher in the major leagues. It’s a tough pill for me to swallow, but it’s the truth.

Right now, Luke May is at a similar spot. He’s a great young guy who has time to improve, but I just can’t see him becoming more than a quality backup. Maybe that’s swayed by the fact that the first description of him that I read described him as such. Maybe I just simply don’t see anything in his future. It’s always difficult to really tell which players can give their all when they aren’t given too much playing time, but this case seems different. He just doesn’t have enough great qualities in every “tool” area to become a starting big league catcher. And that’s okay, but it doesn’t help the Royals in 2011 or 2012.

As for Manny Pina, we’ve heard his qualities countless times. He’s a guy that can defensively catch in the majors right now. He has the skills to be a starting backstop on a major league club. Even with that, however, his lack of any hitting prowess makes it difficult to consider starting him with the Royals. Again, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt because I watched him hit the biggest home run I’ve ever seen at the Nashville Sounds’ ballpark, but he simply cannot hit at the major league level. If you ask me, that’s a problem.

There’s your three candidates. There’s plenty to dislike about them, but does that really give the Royals a reason to trade for a young catcher? In my mind, there are three ways this will ultimately play out.

The first is that the Royals trade some reasonably useful player for a less-than-interesting catcher. There aren’t any official rumors of who they could acquire, but Taylor Teagarden was mentioned, so I’ll go with that. Has Teagarden been any better than Pena in his time in the majors? No. Not even close, actually. Still, he’s younger than Pena and “has potential.” I can see the Royals trading someone like Mike Aviles or Kila Ka’aihue for a guy like Teagarden, opening up a spot for Wilson Betemit and easing roster concerns outside of the catcher spot. I’m not saying that’s the trade that will happen, but it’s similar to a trade that could happen. It just seems to make too much Royals sense to not be a possibility.

The second thought that pops into my mind is that the Royals make a prospect trade. Guys like Jesus Montero and Wilson Ramos, both of whom could be in the majors now, come to mind as potential targets. Could they send prospects to New York and get Montero? Probably not. With the current Nationals focus, however, they could easily send one of the lefty pitching prospects packing to bring in Ramos. With the latest shift in Royals focus, this makes sense. The Royals are in full-scale building mode and Dayton Moore has mentioned before that having a stock of left-handed pitching prospects gives the club considerable value. Depending on who the Royals let go and which catcher they target, I could be okay with this. At least, I’d find it to be a more respectable deal than the first one.

Finally, the Royals could just end up staying where they are. I know a lot of Royals fans out there love to rag on Dayton for his ridiculous moves and some of the senseless things he does. Hey, who doesn’t make fun of him? Still, things are different. Just like with the Zack Greinke trade, it seems more likely that Dayton will simply let the time pass rather than pull the trigger on a trade that doesn’t help the Royals’ future in any way. I really think that he won’t sacrifice great prospects for a mediocre catcher, so I would lean toward this as a significant possibility. It might be more significant than the second possibility that I listed.

That’s what I think, at least. If I were a betting man, I’d give the first possibility about a 35% chance of happening, the second a 25% chance, and the third a 40% chance. I have a hard time believing Dayton won’t still at least consider making a move that forces us all to scream obscenities, but with the way the club culture is changing, it’s more likely that he either does nothing or makes a prospect trade.

What do you think?

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