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…
- 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.
- 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.