Quick Hit: Drew Butera and Twins Catchnig

Drew Butera loves puppies, is indifferent to hitting.

This past Friday was the deadline for teams to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players (also for non-arbitration eligible players, as Twins declined to offer a contract to Lester Oliveros, effectively removing him from the 40-man roster). The Twins had three arbitration eligible players and offered contracts to all three, including catcher Drew Butera. That means that all five catchers currently on the 40-man roster are likely to remain with the Twins heading into 2013.  What else does this move say about the Twins 25-man roster (We already know that Josmil Pinto is not a viable candidate to make the 25-man roster, so we’ll omit him from the discussion going forward)?

  1. The Twins are NOT going to carry four catchers on the 25-man roster. With Mauer and Doumit locks to make the 25-man roster, and the Twins unlikely to carry FOUR catchers in 2013, when the Twins tendered a contract to Butera that puts Chris Herrmann on the outside looking in.
  2. The Twins like having a defensive specialist as their third catcher. Chris Herrmann would give the Twins a third catcher that has the ability to play multiple positions and pinch hit if needed, but he hasn’t yet developed into a great defensive backstop.  Butera, on the other hand, is a defense first catcher.  Butera’s BEST offensive season was 2012, and he hit just .198/.270/.279.  Pitchers rave about Butera’s ability to call a game and he has had success throwing out runners (33% career caught stealing rate).  Having a defensive, likable   third catcher probably also helps the team between games when pitchers are throwing bullpens or side sesssions, but on a game to game basis, Butera is only called into action about once every four games.
  3. The Twins do not believe that Chris Herrmann is ready to compete for a Major League job. Herrmann played briefly with the Twins after a September call-up in 2012, but otherwise has yet to play above AA.  Herrmann could be the heir to Joe Mauer‘s throne if/when Mauer is eventually forced to move to 1B or DH full time.  The Twins will likely give Herrmann development time in Rochester in 2013.
  4. Drew Butera will continue stealing a roster spot, despite playing only occasionally, and having value ONLY as defensive specialist.  Drew Butera cannot hit, so he has no value as a pinch hitter.  He doesn’t play any other defensive positions (even as a Minor Leaguer Butera only played 3/450 games away from catcher), so he provides no additional roster flexibility when he isn’t catching, even if the Twins wanted to put him into the lineup.  Even for catchers, he isn’t fast, so he can’t be used as a pinch runner (Butera has never attempted a stolen base in the Big Leagues, and has been thrown out 3 times in 5 attempts in the Minors). So he can’t hit, he can only catch (where he’s 3rd in line behind Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit), he isn’t fast, and only gets into games about 1/4 of the time.  And yet the Twins want to keep him on the 25-man roster.

I’m not sure that another team could have claimed Butera if the removed him from the 40-man roster.  Which means that the Twins could easily sign him to a Minor League contract and stash him at Rochester.  Then, if the Twins needed an emergency catcher they could add him back to the 40-man roster and call him up AND he’d be available at Triple-A to help mentor and teach Chris Herrmann.

It was just a simple transaction, handing a 2013 contact to Drew Butera, but it has an impact on the upcoming season and gives fans a little more insight into the line up the Twins are likely to use to start the season.

-ERolfPleiss

6 thoughts on “Quick Hit: Drew Butera and Twins Catchnig

  1. If indeed Herrmann is a potential starting catcher for the Twins, then he needs to catch every day in Rochester to improve his skills, not sit on the Twins bench and play once or twice a week.

    I don’t really understand all the screaming we hear about Butera. He is what he is, a backup catcher that you really don’t worry about getting rusty because he isn’t playing much. I REALLY wish the biggest problem the Twins had right now was their backup catching situation.

  2. Jim,
    I agree, Herrmann needs to play everyday if he has any shot at being the Twins future catcher, even if he’s only a placeholder while Josmil Pinto develops.

    But I would say that my screaming about Butera is less about who Butera is, and more about what the Twins are doing with that roster spot. Why even carry a 3rd catcher that hamstrings the roster if you have one available on the 40man roster to call up when warranted? If Joe Mauer goes down again, sacrificing the DH (Doumit’s primary position) for one game while they call someone up is not going to be the biggest issue. Instead use that roster spot to carry a base stealer, a solid bench bat, a defensive specialist (especially someone who could play excellent middle infield defense), or as the Twins often do, put an extra arm in the bullpen. No sense in hamstringing themselves just to fall in love with a Butera-type.
    But you’re right, way bigger issues than who fills up the 25th spot on the roster. Like who fills up 4 spots in the starting rotation.

  3. I don’t consider your post to be “screaming” Eric. I was referring to the almost non-stop Butera ranting that goes on over at TD and other similar sites.

    Whether Butera’s roster spot could be better utilized in light of Doumit’s presence is certainly a fair issue for discussion. I’ve never understood Gardy’s phobia regarding losing his DH for a few innings of one game, either. Of course, just because Butera was tendered a contract doesn’t lock him in to a 25-man roster spot either. It just retains him as an option.

    For me, if Butera is getting a bunch of PAs in May and June, I’ll get excited about addressing that kind of insanity then. I just think he gets a lot of very personal anger from fans because he’s not something he never claimed to be and I think that’s unfortunate.

  4. I think it all boils down to this: Terry Ryan is still trying to defend dumping salary back in the day by trading Luis Castillo for Butera

    :p

  5. .299/.357/./363 from Castillo with the Twins. I’d give me left arm for the Twins to have that kind of production from a middle infielder today.

  6. Yet, by the time he left the Mets, I think most Mets fans would have gladly taken Butera (or a bag of used baseballs) back if the Twins would have taken Castillo off their hands. Of course, it wasn’t trading for Castillo that the Mets did wrong, it was re-signing him for way too much money over way too many years.