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)?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.