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.

31 thoughts on “Time to trade Austin Hedges–For his sake

  1. 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 so much better than Margot, will soon be traded. I wish all the other scribes who cover the Padres might try to be as honest as Diane is and what she sees. But for some reader to suggest that Diane “rambles like a fool” when talking about Preller and the Padres, that was shameful. And by the way, what happened in Preller’s pursuit of Kluber and Bumgarner? There are GM’s who make things happen and then there are those who watch things happen…..

    1. 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

      1. 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.

        1. 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

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

  2. 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. He deserves more than he’s received but us fans deserve him to lead our staff.

    AJ… not everyone needs to be your buddy, from your old team, or someone you met along the way. Other guys draftees are valuable! It’s time AJ starts doing his job. I fear he doesn’t know how to build a contender and that we will never be because of him. I foresee him depleting the farm to save his job and we remain mediocre for years to come.

    I’m a SD native and the Padres have been my team since they arrived. I want them to compete. We’ll never have the money of LA or NY. But, we can develop and hang on to our guys without dumping them prematurely, AJ’s pastime. I get we can’t keep them all and not all will work out, but…

    1. 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 hitters around him to make his bat almost irrelevant. Diane

  3. 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 championship. Not a one way player but players that are both. Hedges was never a hitter. That was his one nock in the minors. Amazing glove no bat. To say that the Padres and AJ never liked him though is just the rambling of a fool. They got rid of Norris so he would be the everyday. They gave it back to him after any injury, and they have always valued him as an incredible defensive catcher. Thats just it thought, a defensive catcher is a one way catcher. If we had a line up of players that give us .270 plus then his .180 is not an issue. Oh wait do I see trades to get those players? I think we just saw them. Don’t think the Padres don’t value what Hedges brings to the table, but more is needed. The team is taking shape, young and old. We need both catchers right now. One for the glove and one for the bat. The front office knows this and until a better player in both parts of the game come along run a two headed monster out there. One that will have them competing. With one tou can’t do it, but with both you can.

    1. Hello AJ Diem,
      That “ramblings of a fool” — really. How about agreeing to disagree rather than flinging insults?
      Actually Yadier Molina couldn’t hit a lick when he first came up. It took him several years to develop at the plate. Have you forgotten that Preller traded Yasmini Grandal? For Matt Kemp?
      Diane

  4. Gimme a break.176/11hr/36 rbi, he is black hole offensively .We won 70 games ,how many games did his defense save?If you make it to the majors you should be able to handle pitching staff.Time to move on.

    1. Hello petey,
      Much of Padres twitter agrees with you. Unfortunately, you cannot quantify the difference he made with a young pitching staff. All I can say is be careful what you wish for…
      Diane

      1. Diane, I could be wrong but I thought it was you who wrote an article that had the W/L records for both catchers last year (it was about 3/4 through the season). Either way, do you have that info, or do you know how to get it?

        The contrast was stunning, something like well over .500 for Hedges (for a SUB .500 team) and well below .500 for Mejia, but he had a much smaller sample size.

        1. Hi Tommy T,
          I did include those stats in an article, but I can’t remember where I found the info… Plus, I tried going back through my articles to no avail. I don’t have time to pursue the issue but definitely want to figure this out.
          However, that particular stat doesn’t take into account many other factors and so should just be part of any analysis.
          Thanks for reading and commenting (and even recalling that tidbit).
          Diane

  5. This would be another huge mistake by the Padres. We have an up and coming pitching staff that needs the defensive prowess of Austin Hedges. With the likes of Paddack, Lament, Gore, Patino, Quantrill, etc. who are all just coming into their own, it would affect these guys as much as the team if Hedges was let go. The rest of the league is looking for good quality catchers behind the plate, why would we get rid of him only to pick up someone else’s less than stellar catcher. I said it the other day and I will say it again, Preller has no clue how to build a major-league baseball team. Getting rid of Hedges after shipping off Austin Allen to make room for a less than adequate defensive catcher in Meija would be one more dumb move by Preller.

    1. Hi TSquared,
      I agree with you, but we’re not running the team, are we? Preller will never value Hedges, and he would be better off with a team that appreciates his defensive prowess and relationship with pitchers. I’d be willing to bet that a new team could also improve his hitting. Perhaps the Padres are afraid of just that so they hang on to him while disparaging him.
      Diane

    1. Hey ms green,
      Not kidding at all. I read that article but stand by my opinion. This is personal with me. I think that Preller has undervalued Hedges from the beginning. He had to back up Norris, and then the Padres traded for Mejia. He must feel like he has to watch his back with this organization constantly.
      He works his ass off and gets zero appreciation.
      Diane

  6. With a young staff it would be serious mistake to trade the game’s best defensive catcher.
    Over the last 2 seasons his WAR of 3.7 slots neatly between Gary Sanchez and Yadier Molina, 9th among all catchers.
    This is typical Preller, we have the 9th best catcher, run him out of town.
    We have the absolute worst first baseman, and it’s radio silence.
    When are we going to see a series of articles calling for the trading of the Ground Ball King?

    1. Hi Tanned Tom,
      I’ve written articles about the folly of signing the ground ball king….
      About Hedges, I am just sick and tired of seeing him marginalized and insulted. Preller has never appreciated his skillset, so it’s time to move him for his sake…
      Diane

      1. Appreciate your consideration for Hedges, everyone should work where they are valued. Let’s hope that the analytics department convinces Preller to hold onto him.

  7. We all get his offensive deficiencies, but moving him would be yet another selling low on a valuable player. And I get moving him for his sake, but it would be a horrible mistake (unless some wonderful deal actually materializes).

    Worst of all, it would be done by the George Costanza of negotiations (while this is the least of his sins, he even threw in Buddy Reed, who is also a sell-low player, and Austin Allen, for a player who would have been free if he waited a few hours; and apparently Preller is the king of PTBNL’s, 2 more to come).

    Preller has lost all leverage, and he was horrible at it to begin with (see Hosmer; Myers, et al).

    Can anyone find out what Hedges w/l record was last year, and compare it to Mejia’s? Last I saw it was stunning. While in one way that means nothing, in another way it means everything.

    1. Hi Tommy T,
      It is clear that Hedges’ future with the team will always be at risk as long as Preller is general manager. I have come to believe that if the Padres actually named him as their primary catcher and stopped trying to trade him or bring in other catchers to compete for the job, there’s a good chance he’d loosen up at the plate.
      But that won’t happen. Why should he have to put his heart and soul into a team that shows no appreciation for his talents?
      Diane

  8. Seriously? Getting rid of Hedges would be a HUGE mistake. Giving up too soon on players is the Padres trademark. Can you say the name Grandal? Hedges needs the proper leadership and coaching. Green was an absolute joke and waste of fans time. PlZ!!!!! Someone tell the hitting coaches to get Hedges to keep his eye on the ball! I have coached at several levels and what i see is he takes his eyes off the ball at the VERY LAST SPLIT SECOND! IT’S TIME FOR HIM TO GET ON THE TONY GWYNN BATTING TEE. Trust me he will improve!

    1. Totally agree. If Hedges can hit .230 or .240 he is a huge asset. If he hits .180 he would still be an excellent back up for the Pads.

      1. Hi Michael,
        I understand your incredulity. This whole issue is personal with me. I’m a huge fan of Hedges, was listening/hoping the day he got drafted.
        It has been clear from the beginning that Preller does not value his incredible defensive skills or his value to the pitching staff. I cannot stand another season of seeing him marginalized and cast aside for an inferior catcher with a bat.
        Diane

      2. Hi Gary,
        I regard catcher as the most important position on the diamond and that a catcher of Hedges’ caliber doesn’t need to hit squat.
        Diane

  9. Seriously? Getting rid of Hedges would be a HUGE mistake. Giving up too soon on players is the Padres trademark. Can you say the name Grandal? Hedges needs the proper leadership and coaching. Green was an absolute joke and waste of fans time. PlZ!!!!! Someone tell the hitting coaches to get Hedges to keep his eye on the ball! I have coached at several levels and what i see is he takes his eyes off the ball at the VERY LAST SPLIT SECOND! IT’S TIME FOR HIM TO GET ON THE TINY GWYNN BATTING TEE. Trust me he will improve!

    1. Hi Michael,
      I understand your incredulity. This whole issue is personal with me. I’m a huge fan of Hedges, was listening/hoping the day he got drafted.
      It has been clear from the beginning that Preller does not value his incredible defensive skills or his value to the pitching staff. I cannot stand another season of seeing him marginalized and cast aside for an inferior catcher with a bat.
      Diane

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