Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Drew Butera and the cost of a third catcher

The addition of free agent Ryan Doumit during last offseason raised an interesting question for the Twins. Should the club carry a third catcher? Joe Mauer was coming off an injury-plagued year and it seemed like the club might need a little insurance with the big league squad.

If Mauer and Doumit were in the line-up on the same day, the team could run into some problems without an extra catcher. There is a chance the team could lose the designated hitter spot or the club could be in a bind with an inexperienced player behind the dish.

This brings the story back to Drew Butera. In the last three seasons, Twins fans have watched Butera put together one of the worst statistical lines for any player getting regular playing time at the big league level. He has hit .183/.232/.265 over 487 at-bats and 184 games.

Last year, the Twins tried to start the year without a third catcher on the bench. Sean Burroughs impressed the front office during spring training and he earned a roster spot for the beginning of the year. Joe Mauer took a foul ball of his knee three weeks into the season and that meant the return of Butera and the end of Burroughs.

Butera was arbitration eligible for the first time this year and the Twins had to fork over a new deal worth $700,000. There was a chance for him to be non-tendered but the club is in love with his defense. This means that he will be making more money this year than last year's runner-up for the MVP Mike Trout.

Mauer has made it clear that he wants to spend more time behind the plate in 2013. The Twins will also use Doumit behind the plate even if his ability to frame pitches isn't the greatest. That leaves Butera to absorb any other playing time that is left over.

There is always a chance that Butera won't make the roster for the start of the year. The club did this last year before they got a scare from Mauer getting banged up. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has said that he wants more pop on his bench and Butera certainly doesn't fit this offensive mold.

Eduardo Escobar has said that he would serve as the emergency catcher for the club. The White Sox trusted him with this role in 2012 even though he never made it into a game behind the plate. He doesn't add a whole lot of offensive value but his ability to play multiple infield positions could help. Even Jeff Clement has offered to catch if the Twins find themselves in a pinch.

During the coming year, Butera will turn 30-years old so it's not like he is a prospect in waiting. He might be forced to spend at least part of the season at the Triple-A level. That can't be too exciting for a player with over 500 plate appearances at the big league level.

When it comes to the future, it's hard to know what it will hold for Butera. He will be arbitration eligible again at the end of this season but he might be getting to the point where he will be getting paid more than he is actually worth. Some might argue that he has already past that point but he will get one more run through the Twins system.

Chris Herrmann will start the year in Rochester and there is a good chance he will play a more important role on next year's club. The 25-year old catcher/outfielder has slowly worked his way through the system since being drafted in 2009. His emergence could mean the end of Butera with the Twins.

The Twins aren't yet sure if they will carry a third catcher for 2013 so it's hard to know what Butera's place will be with the club. Gardenhire and the front office used a roster spot on a third catcher for most of last year but it might be time for a change.

The cost of carrying a third catcher might be too much...

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