The San Diego Padres have a huge decision to make during the off-season. They have two catchers that are ready to play everyday and be major factors in the Padres 2016 season. A fantastic problem to have, but whom will the team keep and what kind of return will the Padres get for the other? Or will the team just keep them both?
Austin Hedges was deemed a can’t miss prospect shortly after being drafted out of Junipero Serra High School in Gardenia California in the June 2011 Draft. The second round selection was known as a fantastic defensive catcher with an average bat. That scouting report has pretty much held up as Hedges only issue is his swing. It continues to be a work in progress at this point in his Major League career.
Derek Norris displayed some excellent leadership skills this season for the Padres. Norris took an absolute beating behind the plate but showed his toughness throughout the whole year. His 2016 season started out well, but the daily grind of being behind the plate took a toll on Norris offensively.
Either catcher could be the Padres back stop in 2016. Norris provides more of a sure thing, as he is already a seasoned Major League catcher at the age of 26. He has some defensive deficiencies, but is a solid all around catcher right now. Hedges has the defensive skills you dream of for a catcher but his bat continues to be a work in progress. He is 22, and Austin Hedges could break out with the bat very easily if he works hard enough on the craft of hitting.
So who will the Padres keep or will they try to keep both on their team? While having both clearly has its benefits the team is missing far too many pieces to hoard talent at a sparse Major League position like catcher. If they can get a nice return for either catcher they will likely pull the trigger on a potential deal. A.J. Preller is not gun-shy and he is clearly intending to take the Padres team to relevance in a competitive National League Western Division. If a trade makes sense, you can bet the Padres will be on it.
What kind of return can the Padres expect for either catcher? In a perfect world the team would obtain a young Major League ready shortstop in return. That is not an easy task though as the position of shortstop is a very thin position around baseball. Teams that are stacked in that position are not necessarily looking for catchers either.
The obvious fit for the Padres is the Chicago Cubs. With Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Starling Castro, the Cubs have three young quality shortstops. Russell is not going anywhere and the Cubs would probably like to keep Baez. So that leaves Starling Castro. There had been many rumors about the two teams coming to agreement on a deal, but nothing has come to fruition as of yet.
The Cubs have Miguel Montero right now at catcher, who is a solid veteran. Kyle Schwarber came up as a catcher and caught for the Cubs this season while Montero was hurt. He has the ability to catch, but the Cubs would likely want him to play elsewhere to keep his bat in the lineup on a daily basis. A deal could be agreed upon. With the Cubs already having Montero, Hedges would be the catcher they probably covet the most. The Cubs are in the middle of a playoff run so any trade talks would have to wait til their run is over.
Another interesting team is the Texas Rangers. They have a terrific shortstop prospect available. Jurickson Profar is a name that A.J. Preller is well aware of. The 22-year-old short stop has had two straight years of shoulder injuries after he was deemed a can’t miss prospect at the age of 20. He has a ton of upside but the injuries are a concern. The Padres will have to do a lot of homework on Profar before a deal could be agreed upon.
The Rangers currently have Robinson Chirinos and Chris Gimenez as their catchers. Both are in the early 30’s and neither is considered a long-term option behind the dish. A deal could be reached if the two clubs can get exactly what the want. A Hedges for Profar deal could be beneficial for both teams, but the Padres will most definitely have to be sure Profar is healthy. They cannot afford to be burned by another injured player.
The Milwaukee Brewers are a third team of interest to the Padres. They have Jean Segura at the Major League level right now. They also have Luis Sardinas and Orlando Arcia in the Minor League level. Sardinas played some second base this season for the Brewers and is already Major League ready. The 22-year-old has plus defensive skills at shortstop and very decent speed. Arcia played in Double-A this season where the 21-year-old hit .307 with eight homers and 69 runs driven in. He also stole 25 bases in 129 games for the Biloxi Shuckers. He too is an advanced defensive shortstop.
In fact all three players from the Brewers are above average defensively. Segura is well established but could be had for the right price. He is under team control until the 2019 season. The problem with a potential deal is the Brewers have no need for a catcher. Jonathan Lucroy is an All-Star caliber catcher and he is signed for the next two seasons. The Padres would have to move some pitching to the Brewers or get really creative to get a deal done. The Brewers have what the Padres need, but the teams don’t seem like a perfect match for a trade.
There are many decisions that this Padres regime must make in the next dozen weeks or so. The future of this franchise is in jeopardy if the team fails to make the correct moves in turning the corner. Selecting a manager will be the first step in righting the ship. The Padres should announce a new skipper very soon, with that the team will get a better idea of what direction they are going. Hedges or Norris could be dealt to improve the team. If one is dealt the Padres will likely be in the market for a veteran left-handed hitting catcher. We will just have to wait and see what A.J. Preller and the Padres do to improve the San Diego Padres.