Jul
09

Scouting The Trade Market: George Kottaras

By

The Yankees have gotten no offense out of their catchers this season and it’s hard to think the glovework of Russell Martin and Chris Stewart have made up for the lack of production at the plate. An upgrade at the position should be on the trade deadline shopping list — though certainly not atop it — even though quality catching is hard to find. We’ve already looked at Ramon Hernandez of the Rockies, but now let’s look at the backstop of another non-contender: George Kottaras of the Brewers.

The 29-year-old Kottaras broke into the big leagues with the Red Sox back in 2008 — they acquired him from the Padres in 2006 in exchange for David Wells (!) — but moved on to Milwaukee via waivers a few days after the Yankees won the 2009 World Series. He’s been the club’s backup since then, first behind Gregg Zaun and now behind the (injured) Jonathan Lucroy. Youngster Martin Maldonado has done a solid job during Lucroy’s absence, meaning Kottaras could become trade bait if the 40-45 Brewers decided to sell in the coming weeks. Let’s see if he’s a fit for the Yankees…

The Pros

  • For one, Kottaras is a left-handed hitter and that’s rare for a catcher. He’s a .239/.330/.436 career hitter against right-handers in 460 big league plate appearances against them.
  • Kottaras excels at drawing walks, earning a free pass in 13.8% of his career plate appearances in the show. Over the last three seasons it’s a 14.8% walk rate. Kottaras doesn’t strikeout a ton despite all the deep counts, owning a 19.3% strikeout rate over the last three years.
  • It’s tough to quantify catcher defense, but Beyond The Box Score’s catcher defense rankings rated Kottaras as an above-average defender last season. Click through the full analysis.
  • Kottaras will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason, he remains under team control through 2015. He’s making six figures this season after missing the Super Two cutoff by a few weeks.

The Cons

  • Kottaras struggles against lefties, with a career .178/.326/.308 line against southpaws in 133 plate appearances. It’s a small sample, but his minor league history backs it up. He’s a platoon hitter.
  • Despite the solid defensive ranking last year, Kottaras can not throw. He’s gunned down just 21 (!) of 128 attempted base-stealers in his big league career, an unfathomably bad 16.4%. For what it’s worth, the 2010 catcher defense rankings rated him as below average.
  • Kottaras is out of minor league options and can not be send down to Triple-A without first clearing waivers.

As bad as his numbers are overall, Russell Martin has handled southpaws well — .275/.383/.549 this year and .230/.337/.424 as a Yankee — and it makes sense to seek a platoon partner. It’s hard not to love Kottaras’ on-base ability and you dream about the short Yankee Stadium porch unlocking some power, though the inability to control the running game is a major issue. I mean, Jorge Posada threw runners out at a 21.8% clip during his defensive disaster years from 2008-2010. Kottaras is at 16.4% during his peak years. It’s a major concern.

Obviously the years of team control is desirable because the Yankees don’t really have a catcher beyond this season. Kottaras would allow them to let Martin walk as a free agent this winter before stepping in as the heavy side of a platoon with a youngster like Austin Romine. But again, that throwing is a problem that will get exposed in steal-happy AL East. I’m not exactly one to be hard on players who play below average defense, but there is a minimum standard here and I don’t think Kottaras meets it. He’s an ideal pickup on the offensive side of the ball, but unfortunately the game extends beyond the batter’s box.

Categories : Trade Deadline

65 Comments»

  1. Kel says:

    I think I prefer to take my chances that Martin will rebound and have a good second half rather than trade for some other team’s catching drek.

  2. Chad Gaudin the Friendly Ghost says:

    16.4%? Ugh…with numbers like that Joe Madden will be giving Jose Molina the steal sign.

  3. Greg says:

    Another name I thought of is David Ross from the Braves.

    This year he is hitting .276/.345/.434 with 3 homers and 7 rbi’s in backup duty.

    In 24 games at catcher this year, he has no passed balls and has thrown out 38% of base stealers. (6 of 16)

    He becomes a free agent next year

    • Need Pitching (and maybe hitting too) says:

      probably not a trade candidate, but maybe somebody to consider as a BUC upgrade in the offseason

    • LiterallyFigurative says:

      The Braves are too close to the Wild Card to trade away a good backup catcher like Ross.

  4. Bubba says:

    Like always, depends on the price.

  5. RetroRob says:

    Let’s get over this nonsense.

    Call up Posada, tell him to strap on the catcher’s gear, and report to River Ave in the Bronx.

  6. Jackson says:

    He sounds like another Posada….except for the walk part….Posada went down looking not protecting the plate with two strikes. They should give Cervelli another shot….I think he is bored in AAA…which ahppens after you thought you were up for good.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      except for the walk part

      Did you watch Jorge play?

    • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

      Speaking of Jackson, Reggie was banned from the Yankees from being around the team indefinitely.

      He was my all time favorite player growing up but what a dumbass for saying those things publicly about A rod.

      Even if he thought those things, keep your big friggin mouth shut especially since you’re employed by the Yankees.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      As in “he’s going to be a borderline HOFer” or are you just counting Posada’s last couple of seasons?

    • Brian S. says:

      Posada was great at drawing walks.

  7. rogue says:

    I’d stick with Martin. He’s played well in recent years and has a good eye at the plate. Better to keep him rather than give up something for another catcher.

    If there’s a need, it’s another lefty bat. Morneau?

    • Need Pitching (and maybe hitting too) says:

      Too expensive for a platoon DH, signed through 2013, and because of Tex, would be relegated almost entirely to DH. I think if the Yankees pursue a bat, it will be someone who can play some OF.

  8. Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

    It’s amazing how pathetic the catching position is in the majors.

    Forget about teaching your kids to throw lefty, if they can wear catchers equipment and stand semi-erect in the batters box, there’s a place for them somewhere in the majors.

    • jjyank says:

      Someone should inform Tilapia that he’s taking the wrong approach with his son.

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        I think yooboo said last night that any kid with a last name ending in “…andez” automatically gets a few million. You’re one of the only folks here who knows my actual name. :)

        After his first birthday, yup, we’re headed to the pitcher’s mound? Not walking yet, you say? We like pitchers who, um, don’t walk. *snare*

    • J6takish says:

      Alex Avila was a 3rd baseman who switched to catcher based on his fathers recommendation that he would get fast tracked to the big leagues

      • Brian S. says:

        Johnny Bench said in an interview that he became a catcher because his dad told him that’s what teams needed.

  9. jjyank says:

    Meh, pass. I don’t think the bat will make up for that awful CS%.

  10. Does cost factor in here?

    Assuming someone overpays for Martin, would Kottaras in a platoon with…Frankie as the other half be a good option to help the salary number for 2014?

    I guess it doesn’t solved the catching postion in 2014, but perhaps Frankie/Kottaras could split duities with Romine.

    You’d be saving something like say 9 million dollars.

    Talking dollars and cents…seeing as Jeter is almost a lock to opt into his 8 million dollar year, you’d also save 9 million there ($17M in 2013).

    Crap, that’s almost all that you’d give to Rivera…haha. Trying to figure a way to keep Grandy and Cano, not sure it’s possible.

  11. Fin says:

    Have to pass on this one. While I’m all for replacing or platooning the awful Martin, its hard to live with a catcher that cant throw. He doesnt seem to hit well enough to make up for his lack of throwing. It would be like having Piazza behind the plate without the offense.

    As far as Cervelli goes, I’ve seen him be forced into full time play and it was down right ugly. Hes a BUC that plays once a week or he gets exposed badly at the plate and behind it. Hes done nothing to prove hes made any progress by going down to AAA and sucking. I dont buy for one second the excuse that hes bored in AAA. He has eyes and can read what Martin and Stewart are doing on the big team and knows that there is a spot to be had. He just isnt good enough to step up and claim it. Hes getting exposed playing every day in AAA just like he did with the Yankees.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      I don’t understand the exposure over more playing time argument at all. Cervelli put up solid offensive #s in MLB. I don’t know what his problem is in AAA, but at the same time he’s not that far off his MLB stats and it might just be that as a contact hitter he hits AAA P about the same as MLB P. I wouldn’t say “bored” is an option, but maybe sulking is. Or being too hard on himself.

      Martin’s offense isn’t far from league average for a C… But I guess if enough people say he’s awful it will make it true.

      • Fin says:

        So no reason to look for a replacement for below league average players? When your below league average hitting as a catcher, that is the defination of sucking.

        • MattG says:

          I wouldn’t say the idea of replacing Martin, Stewart or Cervelli with George Kottaras really fits the description of “looking for a replacement.” It’s more in line with “hoping to find someone that might get hot for a while.”

          There is no way Martin is more awful than Kottaras. In fact, his list of pros might read very similarly, from the opposite side. This idea would be more about finding Martin a platoon mate, hoping one of them gets hot, and protecting themselves from Martin’s bad back.

          And, TN is pretty spot on here. Calling Martin awful doesn’t make it so. This is the state of major league catching.

          • Fin says:

            I dont think saying it makes it so…i think being a below average hitter for catchers makes it so. If being a below average hitter at the catching position doesnt make you awful, what does? Not to mention, hes looked pretty bad behind home plate lately. Until he is put on the DL I dont buy the back as an excuse. ITs hard for me to believe that the Yankees are letting him play with a bad back with his production at the plate and behind it rather than DL’ing him and getting him healthy.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          My point is that you have to judge him relative to other C. You can’t just take your 2B and throw him behind the plate tomorrow the way you may be able to throw him in LF or at 3B with minimal instruction. While his offense has been bad this season, you have to replace him with someone who can C. (Could convert someone if you really wanted, but not overnight.)

          A bit below league average and above league average aren’t too different over a half season sample. Brian McCann has been about as bad as Martin so far this season. Likewise some of the hot guys in the first half will not sustain it.

          Then there’s C defense. The Yankees might be lightyears ahead of us in quantifying it. They were in on Molina and Martin the last few years, who happen to have graded out as the best pitch framers in a study I believe was released sunsequent to the acquisition of Martin.

          And C who are relatively sure to be upgrades over Martin are not cheap via trade. There are maybe 7-10 of them in the world. If that.

          So, unless someone wants to gift wrap a very good C, I think the thing to do is take a shot on a backup you like and can get at a decent price. One who complements Martin–hits RHP–would make sense. Maybe he eats into Martin’s PT, maybe not. Worst case you call up Cervelli and arguably aren’t much worse off than with Stewart, if at all.

          • Fin says:

            First off, dont treat me like a moron, and spell out you cant put a 2b behind the plate. I understand that its not easy to find a good catcher. Its hard to compare Mcann to Martin becasue its a bad half of year for Mcann, Martin its been over a year since hes been productive at the plate. Well several years since Martin’s been productive at the plate, minus the first couple months of last year. Martin’s decline started with Dodgers and has continued with the Yankees minus the first couple of months last year.

            Just because the price might be too high to bring in a marginal upgrade over Martin, in no way has any bearing on how bad Martin has been. Just because there are no clear upgrades to Martin right now, does not make him suck any less, and thats alot of the defense Martin gets.

            Maybe the Yankees spend the next 10yrs going through C’s until they find another good one, but right now both behind the plate and at the plate they cant be much worse than what Martin is doing. If Marginal upgrades arent a big deal, I cant see how the risk of marginal downgrades should stop the Yankees from trying new catchers.

            • Ted Nelson says:

              If you understood that it’s stupid to compare a C’s offense to other positions, you wouldn’t have done it 50 times. If you don’t want someone to explain a concept, show some grasp of it.

              Martin declined with the Dodgers, but was still a solid C. Still is.

              Hahahahah… You get all huffy and then still fail to grasp the concept. Stop comparing Martin to non-Cs. He has not been terrible compared to Cs. Hahahahahahaha. It does mean he sucks less you moron. You can only compare him to other Cs. I can’t stop laughin at you.

              You aren’t reading my points. I said to try a nee backup adn see if he’s an upgrade. Point is that there aren’t many guys who are even clear marginal upgrades. Martin is a strong defensive C who hits about average for a C.

      • Fin says:

        Cervelli in the year he played full time had 3 triples, 11 doubles and 0 hrs in over 300abs. While I agree hes a better hitter than Stewart, its not a big enough gap to make up for his complete suckitude behind home plate. Cervelli isnt and upgrade to anything, just another awful BUC.

  12. Ted Nelson says:

    I think this is the way to go. Getting an upgrade over Stewart is far more likely than over Martin.

    Despite your conclusion the other day that Martin is a huge problem, the guy is not far from league average offensively for a C (with the cutoff date coming after a huge slump). One good week and he’d probably be at average. If Stewart were matching Martin’s production the Yankees Cs would be so close to the league average team offensively that it would probably be not be a statistically significant difference (.013 wOBA points from 15th I believe). Getting someone like Kotarras to hit RHP 2 or 3 times a week would be great (if the price is right and the Yankees find his D at least acceptable).

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      Add to that the fact that, if you’re sitting around contemplating upgrading your BUC, you’re probably in pretty fine shape otherwise.

    • MattG says:

      I am concerned that Martin is hurt, though. It would explain a lot.

    • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

      Preface this by saying Martin’s offensive suckitude this year doesn’t really alarm me. His poor defense recently, however is more problematic in my opinion and that Tampa series was just an embarrassment.

      Saying Martin is “not far from league average offensively for a C” doesn’t really mean much since a league average catcher pretty much sucks anyway.

      I bet the $7.5 million Martin is getting paid this year is above the going rate for an “average catcher” though and I think the Yankees and Yankee fans expected Martin to be at least a little above and not below average after a 3 WAR season last year.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        C defense is pretty hard to measure, as a lot of it amounts to an inch in one direction or another when framing Ps. And I have a hard time looking at one series as predictive.

        Can only compare his offense to guys you’d play at C. No point in comparing it to guys you wouldn’t C.

    • Fin says:

      He’s not far below league average becasue its damn near impossible to hit under .170. Under your premise every shitty catcher in baseball is one good week away from being league average so none of them suck.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        Wow… Batting average!

        Yes. It’s right in front of your face, you should be able to grasp this. If most of the guys at a position are all grouped rigt around a .300 wOBA, any one of that group can fall below or rose above average with a bad or good stretch.

    • Bubba says:

      I think you vastly underestimate Martin’s suckitude. There are only 2 catchers with at least 200 PAs that have a worse average and only 4 with a worse slugging. His K% is significantly above his career average. Aside from a blip last year in his slugging, his BA, OBP, and SLG have gone down every year.

  13. Robinson Tilapia says:

    Reading this writeup on Kotteras makes me just want to go all Betty Lizard on Russell Martin more. Just say no.

  14. MattG says:

    I’m not entirely comfortable with stolen base percentage as an indicator. Too much noise. Do we have any other evidence of his complete inability to throw? Pop times or scouting observations?

    Most teams would not employ a catcher that simply could not throw out runners at least as well as Posada or Piazza. I am skeptical he is that bad.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      One dirty, informal way to look at it would be to compare other recent Brewer Cs, especially against their career numbers. If a pitching staff does a bad job holding on runners this would probably show up this way.

    • Tom says:

      While pitchers are a big chunk of it, 16% is still 16%…

      LuCroy who is not considered a great defensive catcher is throwing out ~28% over 3 years with the Brewers. I have no idea if Kottaras is doing the personal catcher thing (which could skew the #’s) but it sounds like the problem is more on him.

  15. adjusts batting gloves says:

    As usual, great scout reporting report from Mike! Does make Kottaras sound like a poor man’s Matt Nokes, which, for those on this site who are too young to remember, is another way of saying the Yankees probably don’t want him.

  16. Bubba says:

    The throwing may be an issue but the sample size is pretty small, so I wouldn’t use that as a reason to pass on him. Throwing’s important but so is hitting and Martin has been a utter black hole for a long while. Maybe a two headed monster is what we need.

  17. MattG says:

    Pro: We can bring back ‘Georgie juices one!’

    Con: We will have to endure Sterling bellowing ‘Georgie juices one!’

  18. BK2ATL says:

    Just no!!!

    No need to do a deal just for the sake of saying you’re doing a deal. Going from one marginal back-up catcher to a lefty-swinging back-up catcher doesn’t really help.

  19. Ro says:

    Mike,

    You’ve really got a bad taste in your mouth about the catching situation don’t you? You brought this up last week, labeling it as a priority and again today (although you did say not top of the list). Nonetheless, as fan just like you, I have to completely disagree. Martin and Stewart are more than adequate and acquiring a catcher when you “don’t really need too” is serious business as it could shake up/effect the rotation, piss people off or worse. There is no compelling reason the Yanks “should” go get another catcher for the remainder of the season as a rental. None available have potential to carry into 2013, so..

    Frankly, I’ve still got a hard-on for a young 20-24 year old 3rd baseman. That’s by far more important to me as Grandma Arod is cared for on a daily basis. Noble and very commendable effort by Chavez and both years were brilliant for Cashman to bring him in, but looking forward, I don’t think he’ll be around next season and I wouldn’t be surprised if he retires considering his recent comments about “getting prepared to play.” Personally I want Anthony Rendon and I’ll keep posting this until more than 3 people tell me to stop :)

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Everyone wants Rendon, which is why he went so high in the draft and got a huge bonus. You really want to trade what it would take to get him tonsit him on the bench when he’s ready?

      I think Mike overdoes the C thing a little-especially with regard to Martin-but it is more of a priority than 3B. They need a C next season at te latest. They have a 3B signed for like 5 more years or something.

  20. More than 3 people says:

    Stop!

  21. rogue says:

    Here’s a name…

    Chase Utley.

    He would be strictly a DH, but is a lefty and won’t hurt the team financially as 2013 will be the last year of his contract.

    He’s 33.

  22. Matt says:

    BRING HIM TO ME

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