Spring Training is now closer to the end than the beginning, and lineups and rosters are starting to come together. The San Diego Padres are no different. Jemile Weeks is impressing in his audition for an infield utility role, while several other players are doing the same at other positions around the diamond. With Opening Day just over two weeks away, decisions are being made and the 2016 San Diego Padres are coming into focus.
One position that still has a great deal of question marks is catcher. The returning duo of Derek Norris and Austin Hedges are vying for time, while newcomer Christian Bethancourt is making his presence known as well. Although Austin Hedges seems like the logical choice to head to the minors, a lot can still happen in the next few weeks.
By now, every Padre fan has heard the newest batch of Spring Training trade rumors. The Texas Rangers are in the market for a catcher, and are interested in Derek Norris. It remains unclear how interested the Padres are, if at all, or if any negotiations have taken place, but the idea has now been put out there. Although the initial report mentioned just Norris in a trade, several writers have taken it one step further.
While we here at East Village Times mentioned the idea of a bigger trade involving Derek Norris and other players earlier in the week, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs took it another step further with his article on creating a blockbuster trade between the two teams. In that piece, which can be found at this link, Cameron said the following:
“So that’s my suggestion. Gallo and a second solid prospect to the Padres for Tyson Ross, Derek Norris, and the Padres cover the costs of both players in 2016. The Rangers add a potential four or five wins to their ledger this year, while the Padres get a guy whose power will definitely play in Petco, and could turn into a franchise cornerstone if he makes the necessary adjustments. And because Gallo could step right into San Diego’s starting line-up, this would be an easier sell to management and the fan base, especially if Gallo has a big rookie year.”
This trade proposal has at least some merit, whether one agrees with the valuation of Norris and Ross or not. Even so, the chance to acquire a top-10 prospect like Joey Gallo is a rare opportunity, and one the Padres should certainly consider if it came to that. While it remains unclear if any talks such as these have occurred between the two teams, it remains a possibility. This kind of blockbuster deal is exceedingly rare at this time in the year, but A.J. Preller is no stranger to big moves right before the season after acquiring Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton in a blockbuster deal on the eve of last season.
Moving on from the prospects of that sort of deal, the more important topic of conversation in my opinion is the future of Austin Hedges. Ever since coming to town, Derek Norris has been a fan favorite and he has certainly become one of the faces of the Padres franchise. With that being said, Austin Hedges should be the catcher of the Padres future.
Given the Padres current position, at least several years away from contention, Norris appears to be the more expendable piece among the catching trio. Both Bethancourt and Hedges are under longer team control, come cheaper, and also lack the sort of trade value Norris already has. If the Padres are serious about fixing their shallow farm system and speeding up their timetable to contention, trading Norris is a logical next step.
While the likes of Tyson Ross, James Shields, and Andrew Cashner are all probably bigger trade chips for the Padres, trading Norris could be a wise move. The catcher position has become an are of depth for the team, and cashing in on that depth right now makes a lot of sense. Throwing in a pitcher like Tyson Ross and acquiring a player of Joey Gallo’s status could only sweeten the pot.
Austin Hedges has proven he can be one of the best defensive catchers in all of baseball, and the bat looks likely to come around with increased playing time. Rather than have Hedges spend more time in Triple-A this season, the Padres should trade Norris and hand the reigns over to Hedges as the catcher of the future. It would be sad to see Derek Norris go, but the Padres should be in good hands with Austin Hedges as the man behind the plate.