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Monday, June 06, 2022

6 trade destinations for Willson Contreras

Catcher trades rarely happen in-season
How rare? Let’s go back to 1969, the beginning of the Divisional Era. Let’s find catchers who had at least 300 plate appearances in a season in which they were traded, and only those who had at least 2.0 WAR in that season. There are only 11 such players in that time – or about one every five years – which shows you just how rare this is.

From here, we’re getting subjective. Butch Wynegar going from the Twins to the Yankees in 1982 qualifies, but does it count? We argue it does not. Are we buying Joe Ferguson going from the Astros back to the Dodgers in 1978? You’re free to; we’re not. After some eyeballing, this is the list of strong catchers traded in-season in the last half-century.

1986 – Ron Hassey – Yankees to White Sox
1998 – Mike Piazza – Dodgers to Marlins to Mets
2000 – Charles Johnson – Orioles to White Sox
2004 – Paul Lo Duca – Dodgers to Marlins
2009 – Víctor Martínez – Cleveland to Red Sox
2016 – Jonathan Lucroy – Brewers to Rangers
2018 – Wilson Ramos – Rays to Phillies
That’s … it. Seven times in more than 50 years – and we’re not even totally convinced that all of these belong to be included, anyway.

Why is it so rare? It’s not hard to understand. Primarily, it’s about the fact that if you have a good catcher, you’re very likely not looking to give him up. But there’s also the simple fact of the demands of the position, about it’s not just “standing in left field wearing a different color hat now,” but about having to learn an entirely new pitching staff.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 06, 2022 at 09:48 AM | 17 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cubs, willson contreras

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   1. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: June 06, 2022 at 11:53 AM (#6080159)
I am very torn. As a fan, it would really suck to see him traded - just him and Hendricks are left from 2016 - and he's still pretty good. OTOH, they might actually get an even better return for him than any of the guys last year and it's probably not a great idea to give a 30yr old catcher who gets hurt every year a huge long term deal. Then again, it's not my money and the Cubs are too successful and rich to go through another long rebuild (though that horse is already out of the barn).

They have very little long term money committed and there's no obvious in house replacement or prospect knocking on the door. I think they should keep/extend him.
   2. Tom Nawrocki Posted: June 06, 2022 at 11:57 AM (#6080160)
As a fan, it would really suck to see him traded - just him and Hendricks are left from 2016

Did the Cubs finally DFA Heyward? Or are you just trying to forget that he exists?
   3. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: June 06, 2022 at 12:06 PM (#6080163)
Its rude to ask about Heyward!

   4. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 06, 2022 at 12:37 PM (#6080173)
We don’t talk about Heyward, no, no, no!
   5. Walt Davis Posted: June 06, 2022 at 03:05 PM (#6080230)
In his rookie season in the ABA, Spencer Haywood averaged 45 minutes a game with 30 points and damn near 20 rebounds (19.5). You can find him on Twitter at SpencerHaywood. I wonder what a 73-yo former NBA all-stars tweet about.

Although I coulda sworn I saw an obit a couple of years ago, Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues is still kicking it at 75. He's probably on Twitter somewhere too if you're wondering what 75-yo RnR HoF members tweet about.

Rita Hayworth passed away 35 years ago. Probably no twitter account but I wouldn't be surprised if she has a facebook page that has probably been "suggested for me" on fb.
   6. The Honorable Ardo Posted: June 06, 2022 at 03:21 PM (#6080237)
It's crazy that Elston Howard in 1967 is the closest anyone has come to acquiring a starting catcher mid-season and winning the World Series.

Fun fact: at age 19, Howard caught for the Kansas City Monarchs in the 1948 Negro American League championship series - the last one contested. The Monarchs lost that series 4-3-1 (one game ended in a rain-shortened tie) to the Birmingham Black Barons, who played 17-year-old Willie Mays in centerfield.
   7. Walt Davis Posted: June 06, 2022 at 03:25 PM (#6080241)
It is interesting that so few Cs have been traded in-season. Sure, you'd rather not trade one away but you'd rather not be 25 games under 500 in late July too. The Cubs though sorta prepped for this by signing Gomes but he's hurt at the moment. And I suppose you're less interested in trading for one who has to learn the new staff in a hurry.

Minor nitpick with the criteria: with playing time restrictions, average production for a C is probably around 1.5 WAR, maybe a bit lower, not 2. But I doubt it changes the conclusion.

The only other issue that occurs to me is how many still-good Cs in the last 1-2 years of control playing on bad teams are there usually? Willson's 30, the previous two years his bat has been good but not great ... nobody would have been surprised if he was putting up a 90 OPS+ right now and we'd have no articles on his trade destination. Instead he's raking. Or to put it another way, long-term (say 3+) FA contract or extensions are rare for Cs too and drawn from essentially the same pool of players. So sure, the 96-66 Braves did not trade McCann in his last year. The 84-78 Yanks held onto him for all of 2016 then traded him in the offseason (with the emergence of Sanchez).

So what's the denominator is what I'm asking -- good C near FA playing for a lousy team? I assume 7 is still way low but I suspect it's not as extreme as it sounds. Pretty much every bad team has an OF and an IF and a SP and certainly some RPs worth acquiring (of which usually only 1-2 non-RPs might get moved).

And in this case we have the indicator that if the Cubs wanted to keep him long-term, presumably they'd have extended him by now. They may not get a lot in return but it sure seems like their intent is to trade him.
   8. Howie Menckel Posted: June 06, 2022 at 03:51 PM (#6080243)
It's crazy that Elston Howard in 1967 is the closest anyone has come to acquiring a starting catcher mid-season and winning the World Series IN SPITE OF THAT CATCHER.

Howard at age 38 hit .147 for the Red Sox with 1 HR and an 18 OPS+. no amount of framing makes up for that, lol (although the Red Sox players and the media desperately tried to talk themselves into the narrative).

Red Sox were 58-47 (.552) before Howard and 32-23 (.582) with him, as he started 33 of those last 55 games.

after Sept 1 - crunch time in a tight race, as Yaz's magic accelerated - Howard went 5-for-45 with 2 RBI.

1967 BOS OPS+ at C, starts in parentheses:

Mike Ryan (74) 56 OPS+
Russ Gibson (37), 54 OPS+
Elston Howard (33), 18 OPS+
Bob Tillman (18), 35 OPS+

probably more interesting is that this was a trade between the Yankees and the Red Sox.

P.S. In 1968, the Red Sox somehow believed that Gibson and Howard would improve, and they did - Gibson OPS+ from 54 to 66 in 65 starts, Howard from 18 to 93 (!) in 62 starts in his final season before he joined the Yankees to be the AL's first black coach.
The Sawx also gave over-the-hill Cs Russ Nixon and Gene Oliver a combined 133 PA that season to the tune of an 18 collective OPS+, while 21-year-old Gerry Moses had a 200 OPS+ tasty cup of coffee in 5 starts.
   9. Tom Nawrocki Posted: June 06, 2022 at 03:54 PM (#6080244)
Minor nitpick with the criteria: with playing time restrictions, average production for a C is probably around 1.5 WAR, maybe a bit lower, not 2. But I doubt it changes the conclusion.

I think maybe it does. Jonathan Lucroy was also traded from the Rangers to the Rockies in 2017, ended up playing in 123 games overall so you'd have to call him a regular catcher. And the Rockies specifically got him for the stretch run, as they ended up in the postseason that year. But he didn't have 2.0 WAR, so he's not on the list.

And goodness knows how many catchers they arbitrarily cut off the list by "eyeballing." Joe Ferguson was a catcher with a 111 OPS+ that the pennant-winning Dodgers acquired in mid-season to be their catcher for their stretch run in 1978. But he doesn't count... why?
   10. The Honorable Ardo Posted: June 06, 2022 at 04:07 PM (#6080246)
Slight correction to #6 - Howard was playing mainly left field in the 1948 NAL series while regular backstop Earl "Mickey" Taborn caught.

Taborn was only 25 years old himself, a contact hitter with no power or speed but a fine defensive catcher. After a rough 1949 trial in the International League, he played 11 consecutive seasons in Mexico.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: June 06, 2022 at 05:25 PM (#6080267)
I doubt they checked it too closely but maybe they dropped Ferguson because it was such a minor trade -- Ferguson + cash for 2 PTBNL. Now both of those PTBNL turned out pretty good -- Landestoy (not a good player but 1400 PA over 8 seasons) and Jeffrey Leonard (who had a nice run later with the Giants). It looks like the trade was motivated by an injury to Yeager (and maybe Grote too).

Joe Ferguson was sorta the Mike Napoli of his day. He'd already had a solid career with the Dodgers, including 2 seasons with an OPS+ over 130, when the Cards got him (midseason!) for Reggie Smith (not one of the Cards' better trades). The Cards kept him just a few months then flipped him to the Astros for the last 40 innings of Larry Dierker's career.

I don't recall what his defensive rep was (bWAR says he was average) but Yeager was a much better version of Jeff Mathis who probably would have won some GGs if not for Bench. Ferguson was spending a fair bit of time in the OF by the time the Dodgers sent him to the Cards.
   12. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: June 06, 2022 at 05:58 PM (#6080281)
The author dropped Wynegar and Ferguson because they weren't "strong catchers", but both had career bWAR entering their traded season similar to Contreras entering this season.

Ferguson had 67 catcher starts for the Dodgers as they made the World Series. 113 catcher starts on the season.
   13. BDC Posted: June 06, 2022 at 07:11 PM (#6080291)
Bengie Molina went from the Giants to the Rangers in 2010, thus either ensuring that the Rangers would make it to the Series, or that the Giants would win it.

Molina had -0.7 bWAR on that season, but caught 113 games, so he was a fairly regular contributor for both pennant winners (58 for SF, 55 for TEX). But he was obviously still around for his pitcher-handling genius, not for his bat or baserunning speed.
   14. Tom Nawrocki Posted: June 06, 2022 at 07:18 PM (#6080295)
Kurt Suzuki was traded by the A's to the division-champion Washington Nationals for the stretch run in 2012. He played 118 games on the season, with 442 PAs - but didn't have enough WAR to qualify for this list.
   15. Mayor Blomberg Posted: June 06, 2022 at 11:27 PM (#6080334)
catchers who had at least 300 plate appearances in a season in which they were traded, and only those who had at least 2.0 WAR in that season

Butch Wynegar 1982 bWAR
MIN -0.2
NYY +2.0

Yeah, it counts.
   16. Tom Nawrocki Posted: June 07, 2022 at 12:27 AM (#6080343)
Yan Gomes, just last year, was traded from the Nats to the A's midseason, finished the year with 375 PAs and 2.4 WAR.
   17. The Honorable Ardo Posted: June 07, 2022 at 01:18 AM (#6080355)
BDC, shout out for #13. Bengie was the usual starting catcher for the Rangers that postseason.

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