Almost every fan knows that catcher is the most glaring need on the Dodgers roster. There have been non-stop rumors connecting the Dodgers to almost every catcher available.
Players like J.T. Realmuto or Francisco Cervelli would be a nice upgrade for the team but they also come with significant acquisition costs. The Marlins originally asked the Dodgers for a package headlined by Cody Bellinger and more. Jon Morosi of Fox Sports is reporting that the Dodgers would consider trading top prospects Keibert Ruiz or Will Smith and Dustin May but the Marlins want significantly more. Realmuto is a great player, but for only 2 years of him, that’s a large price to pay. The reported cost for 1 year of Cervelli includes Ross Stripling, who has 4 years of team control and was just named to his first all-star game last season.
The free agent catcher market is incredibly weak. Unless Yasmani Grandal is willing to return on a 1 year deal, there isn’t a player available who would help the team much. The Dodgers also have Ruiz and Smith close to making their debuts. Smith should be called up sometime in 2019 and Ruiz should debut in 2020. Both of them have incredibly high potential, it’s just a matter of time until they’re making an impact for the team.
So What Should They Do?
Dave Roberts told Alanna Rizzo what kind of catcher the Dodgers want in an interview on SportsNet LA.
“A guy that’s a team guy, a hard worker, who can receive well,” Roberts said. “A left-handed bat, a guy that can probably hit right-handers. Or a right-hander that can hit right-handed pitchers makes sense for us. But just someone who fits good on the team. Austin [Barnes] is going to get a lot of playing time, that’s our goal, but someone who can complement him.”
There is a player who could be a perfect fit in a platoon with Barnes. Former top prospect Blake Swihart of the Boston Red Sox. Swihart checks a lot of boxes for what the team is looking for and complements Barnes well.
The Dodgers want a catcher who can hit right-handed pitching to pair with Austin Barnes. Swihart, a switch-hitter, can be that player. Look at how well they complement each other.
|Player (2018 stats)||AVG vs RHP||AVG vs LHP||OBP vs RHP||OBP vs LHP||SLG vs RHP||SLG vs LHP||wRC+ vs RHP||wRC+ vs LHP|
|Platoon (Barnes vs LHP, Swihart vs RHP)||.275||.246||.336||.353||.412||.368||101||101|
The Dodgers are certainly no strangers to platooning. Using them in a platoon would provide the Dodgers with an above average offensive combo. And at only 26 years old, Swihart is still a young player. There is a chance he can regain some of his talent that made him a top prospect in baseball just a few seasons ago.
Blake Swihart is a very athletic and versatile player. The Dodgers have shown an affinity for those types of catchers since Friedman took over. He was the 9th fastest catcher in baseball with a 27.1 feet per second, according to Statcast. Barnes was 7th at 27.4 ft/sec. He also has the versatility to play at almost any position on the field. The Red Sox used hit at catcher for 154 innings, first base for 56 innings, second base for 2 innings, third base for 11 innings, left field for 41 innings, and right field for 84 innings. That’s not a large sample at any position but he has the ability to fill in where he’s needed.
Swihart is also an above average pitch framer. He had 0.7 framing runs which put him as the 38th ranked catcher. What’s significant about that is framing runs is a volume based stat and he was 76th in total chances with 1,209. To put it into perspective, last season Grandal had 6,851 chances (15.7 framing runs) and Barnes had 2,837 (8.3 framing runs). With more chances, Swihart would likely rank in the top 20 catchers.
He is also much better at catching base stealers than Barnes is. Swihart’s average pop time of 1.97 seconds is above average and his arm is the 9th strongest for catchers, with an average of 85.7 mph on his throws. For comparison, Barnes was at the bottom of the league in pop time and arm strength at 2.11 seconds and 75.6 mph.
Acquiring Swihart shouldn’t cost the Dodgers too much. He has fallen out of favor in Boston and seems like a prime change-of-scenery rebound player. They could probably get him for a reliever like Josh Fields or a mid-level prospect.
If he doesn’t work out, the team has Smith almost ready to start at the major league level. The Dodgers shouldn’t be spending a ton or trading a lot for a catcher who will be overtaken by 1 of the 2 top prospects sooner than later. Swihart would be a fantastic choice, at a cost the team could live with, to pair with Austin Barnes for 2019.
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