It has been long rumored that the San Diego Padres are looking to move Derek Norris. The emergence of young catcher Austin Hedges has made the potential of losing their current starting catcher acceptable. Christian Bethancourt has also stepped up and provided a lot behind the plate for the team. With three viable catchers, at least one must be moved while their value is still high.
In recent trade discussion it is beginning to be speculated that teams are looking at Hedges opposed to Norris as a potential catcher. The Padres are at a point where they need to decide between the two back stops and there really seems like no clear answer. Or is there?
Austin Hedges is younger and defensively he has much more upside than Norris. Offensively you would have to give the nod to Norris right now, but Hedges really seemed to have closed that gap with a great 2016 season. He is currently hitting .382 with 17 home runs and 59 RBI in 44 games and 165 at bats. Those numbers are off the charts. He has clearly figured some things out with his swing.
For a catcher (Hedges) who was once considered a liability with a bat, to an OPS of 1.176 in El Paso this season is a miracle. Well… perhaps not. The 23-year-old just needed time to work on his hitting and he certainly has done that. You could never question his work ethic. That is what made him such a great defender at a young age. He works hard at his craft. Since he has essentially mastered his defensive skills, you knew he would now take that extra time to work on hitting. The Padres are seeing those results now. Luckily the team did not sell low on Hedges and trade him after a disappointing 2015 season.
In recent trade discussions with the Texas Rangers for the names of Jurickson Profar or Joey Gallo, the Rangers want top dollar (as they should). Both prospects are very highly touted and ready for major league service time. Neither needs any more seasoning and both are currently blocked by high-priced veterans at their respected positions. Recently Profar has been working out in the outfield in an attempt by the Rangers to get his bat in the lineup. He has professed that he prefers to play shortstop and looks forward to an opportunity elsewhere. He will be traded by the team. The writing is on the wall. The Padres could use his services and Preller knows him well.
It has gotten to the point where the Rangers likely prefer Hedges and his upside to Norris and his slumping bat. That might be where this trade has stalled. The Padres have players like Ryan Buchter and Andrew Cashner who definitely interest the Rangers, but the two teams are probably delayed on the catching situation. The Padres are at a difficult point where they must decide.
If Hedges is who they want to run their young upcoming staff then they need to hold on to him tightly. In a few years there will be stud pitcher after stud pitcher arriving in San Diego. You want a gold glove caliber catcher receiving them and helping them grow. Hedges has that ability. The more you think about it, Austin Hedges has to be the teams catcher for the future. At the very worst with him you will get a power bat with excellent receiving skills. When Anderson Espinoza, Adrian Morejon, Chris Paddack, Logan Allen, Jacob Nix, Cal Quantrill, Enyel De Los Santos, Eric Lauer, Austin Smith, Reggie Lawson, Mason Thompson and Jean Cosme arrive at Petco, Hedges will only make them better. The Padres have a future dominant staff and the teams needs a young catcher to help cultivate these guys. The answer is easy, keep Hedges and deal Norris. The Padres are working on it, but with Norris in a bit of a slump, his value is down. Look for A.J. to get a deal done soon.