Time to trade Austin Hedges–For his sake

Credit: USA Today Sports

Credit: USA Today Sports

For the sake of Austin Hedges, the San Diego Padres should trade the catcher. 

It’s no secret that the San Diego Padres want to move catcher Austin Hedges, and a trade would be in his best interest as well.

Renowned for his defensive skills as well as his handling of pitchers, Hedges’ bat has gone into the deep freeze. If the rest of the lineup had performed at the plate, his strengths might have trumped his weakness. Instead, Padres hitters as a group ranked at or near the bottom in a multitude of categories.

Besides, Hedges is not one of Preller’s guys, as he was drafted in 2011 by Jed Hoyer the year before the latter moved to Chicago. A Southern California kid, Hedges attended JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano and signed for $3 million despite his commitment to UCLA.

Ironically, rumors indicate that Hoyer’s Chicago Cubs may be shopping catcher Willson Contreras. Hedges’ 22 DRS dwarfs Contreras’ -1, but the latter batted .272/.355/.533 with 64 RBIs and 24 homers to Hedges’ .176/.252/.311, 36 RBIs and 11 homers. David Ross, a former catcher himself for multiple teams, including the Cubs, Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers, has taken over as manager.

Despite Ross’ rather feeble .229/.316/.423/.739 batting line, he played for 14 years. His history would indicate an openness to at least considering Hedges as a good fit for the Cubs.

Another former catcher, Joe Maddon, has been outspoken about his appreciation for the demands and unique qualities required of the position. After stints with the Tampa Bay Rays and Cubs, he has returned to his original team, the Los Angeles Angels. Under Maddon, the Cubs won their first World Series since 1908, defeating the Cleveland Indians in a seven-game thriller.

Maddon made his appreciation of defensive-minded catchers to the Los Angeles Times on December 10th:

The best catchers are the ones that can go 0-for-4 and catch a shutout and are absolutely thrilled. They’re more concerned about their guy than they are about their hitting… (A catcher has) To have a great mind. He’s got to have great recall. He’s got to be open-minded. He has to have creativity. He’s got to know when to go off-script.”

Angels’ general manager Billy Eppler indicated that  “ the catchers that we’re talking to, there’s one common denominator – they’re defensive-oriented.” Both Maddon and Eppler would value Austin Hedges type skills, including his league-best 26.7 fielding runs above average and his framing runs, which rank second.

This year, the Angels had one of the worst pitchers ERA in the history of the franchise, and his skill at working with pitchers could turn that around. Also, thanks to the designated hitter in the American League, Hedges’ hitting would be less of an issue.

Other teams, like the Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays, Cincinnati Reds, and Atlanta Braves have indicated some interest in upgrading at catcher. However, the Detroit Tigers recently agreed to a deal with Austin Romine, who has backed up Gary Sanchez with the New York Yankees.

In many ways, Hedges’s tenure with the Padres has been rocky. Preller first promoted him in May 2015 to learn from primary catcher Derek Norris. Unfortunately, Norris turned out to be the least popular guy in the clubhouse, and he treated Hedges as his whipping boy.

The following year, Hedges began the season in El Paso. Then he broke his hamate bone, had surgery, and returned to Triple-A, playing only eight games with the big club. In 2017 he appeared in 120 games as the primary catcher. He missed several games after getting hit in the mask and later shaken up by Anthony Rizzo’s infamous slide into home plate.

Through his time with the Padres, Hedges certainly has not been helped by the revolving door of hitting coaches since his first callup. Every single year has featured a different voice and a different strategy.

Austin Hedges would benefit from having a fresh start with a team that values his defensive prowess. Who knows, that team might also unlock hidden potential at the plate. As an added bonus for Hedges, the talented backstop could escape from the wanton brutality of Padres’ Twittersphere.

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Diane Calkins
Baseball has been a part of Diane's life since her father played professionally (mostly at the minor league level). She has written for a number of publications and concentrated on companion animal welfare. She welcomes the opportunity to write about the sport she loves. Diane shares her home with her husband and a house full of rescued animals.
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Gary Klimas
Gary Klimas
2 years ago

Diane, as usual, wrote an excellent opinion story on the Padres, Preller and Austin Hedges. To me, she is one of the few Padres writers who speaks honestly and does NOT sugarcoat what she sees. Austin Hedges – like other high draft picks Preller inherited, has always been screwed by Preller and his people. So he doesn’t hit much? All he does is mentor the pitchers and WINS more games as a receiver than anyone else Preller puts behind the plate. But Preller didn’t draft Hedges so he, like Renfroe, like Spangenberg, like Jankowski, who by the way is still… Read more »

Diane Calkins
Diane Calkins
2 years ago
Reply to  Gary Klimas

Thanks, Gary,
That is high praise, and I appreciate it.
There does appear to be a pattern here, as all the players Preller inherited are gone except Hedges. And he’s being shopped. It’s interesting that Travis Jankowski was jettisoned almost immediately after the season. I agree that he is at least as good if not better than Margot.
Despite the fact that Preller is obviously in trade/shopping mode, other teams are beating him to the best of the pitchers out there. It will be VERY interesting to see the team at the end of spring training.
Diane

Padre Fan Going Back to Steve Arlin
Padre Fan Going Back to Steve Arlin
2 years ago
Reply to  Diane Calkins

Regarding Jankowski, he definitely should have been given a lot more playing time once he finally came back from his injury – it was crazy to have Renfroe out there making his injured foot worse while someone who needed the playing time sat on the bench! If nothing else, it would have helped the Padres get more out of the trade to Cincinnati. But it appears that all they cared about was getting rid of him.

Diane Calkins
Diane Calkins
2 years ago

Hello Padre Fan,
I couldn’t agree more. Just when Jankowski finally came back the Padres added just what they needed? Another outfielder? Nick Martini? So Freddy sat on the bench. When given a chance to play regularly in 2017/18 he proved he was just as good as Margot (better at running the bases).
You should listen to the recent EVT podcast which includes an interview with Jankowski. It made me miss him even more… I hope he gets the chance he deserves with the Reds.
Thanks for your thoughts,
Diane

Padre Fan Going Back to Randy Jones
Padre Fan Going Back to Randy Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Diane Calkins

I listened to that podcast yesterday! Really enjoyed the interview, and I think even more of TJ than I did before.

eli cain
eli cain
2 years ago

during the seventh inning stretch, hug people

O
O
2 years ago

Yes! Visualize whirled peas.

Tony C
Tony C
2 years ago

I’m a Hedges fan. He brings so much to this team and the pitching staff. The favor Hedges needs is support from the GM and coach. Maybe he doesn’t produce offensively as others. His defenses crushes all the other catchers. I think his value as a catcher outweighs his deficiencies as a hitter. I hope he starts. The young staff will develop faster. I hope the new pitching coach voices his desire for the defensive catcher. Let’s develop the young staff with new proven coaching and a catcher that contributes to that. Trade Hedges because he deserves a fresh start.… Read more »

Diane Calkins
Diane Calkins
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony C

Hello Tony C, I’ve been a fan for a long time too (having to wean myself off my childhood team up the freeway). It wasn’t an easy transition, that’s for sure. Like you, I desperately want the team to actually compete in the division and the league. I couldn’t agree more about Hedges’ talents, but it’s clear that Preller wants to move him. For his sake (he’s put up with a lot from the team that drafted him after all), I want him to have a fresh start with another team, one that values his defensive skills and has the… Read more »

AJ Diem
AJ Diem
2 years ago

I love watching hom behind the plate, but his hitting is just as bad as his defense is good. A world series competing team can not have a player who hits below 200. It’s that simple. Yes we have a young pitching staff coming up that need a good voice behind the plate, but we also need a catcher that can be an average hitter at best. Yes he is as good if not better than some of the greatest catchers of today’s game defensively, but they can also hit. Grandal, Molina. Hitters as well. That is what makes a… Read more »

Tommy T
Tommy T
2 years ago
Reply to  AJ Diem

” …just the rambling of a fool.” Seriously?

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