Are the Orioles in the market for a catcher despite earlier statements that they were satisfied with their choices at the major league and Triple-A levels? Has something changed in their backstop stance?
“According to the trade rumors, it has,” said executive vice president Dan Duquette.
True enough. But are concerns over the lack of offensive production from Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley enough to alleviate the worries over introducing a new catcher to the pitching staff more than halfway through the regular season?
“I don’t know,” Duquette said. “Like I said, we already transitioned our catchers once. It’s hard to do it again.
“It looks like our pitching is starting to jell with our catchers and vice versa.”
Also true enough, but it’s become apparent that the Orioles are open to acquiring another catcher. It’s not on the top of their list - a late-inning set-up type reliever and a starter are priorities - but “it’s something we’re taking a look at,” Duquette said.
“The guys we’ve got are OK,” he added. “Having said that, we’ve got to get better offensive production the rest of way. That’s something we’re taking a look at.”
The Orioles optioned Steve Clevenger to Triple-A Norfolk this week, and he’ll continue to focus on his work behind the plate. The Orioles won’t sacrifice defense, which complicates their search.
How many plus-defense catchers with a track record for hitting are being dangled on the trade market?
The Twins’ Kurt Suzuki may be available, and he’s batting .312/.370/.397 with 19 doubles and 40 RBIs in 84 games. However, we’re talking about a career .258/.315/.377 hitter in nine major league seasons who batted a combined .232/.290/.337 in 94 games with the Nationals and Athletics last year.
Suzuki has thrown out 11 of 37 (23 percent) runners attempting to steal this season, slightly below his career average of 26 percent. Joseph has thrown out 15 of 29 (52 percent), which is keeping him in the majors, but he’s batting .183/.265/.296 in 42 games.
Hundley is batting .221/.253/.338 in 23 games and has thrown out two of 14 (14 percent) runners attempting to steal.
The Angels signed John Buck to a minor league deal this week and assigned him to Triple-A Salt Lake, so cross him off the list of available catchers. He batted .226/.293/.286 in 27 games with the Mariners this season and is a career .234/.301/.398 hitter in parts of 11 major league seasons. Not sure he fits the profile of what the Orioles are seeking.
The non-waiver trade deadline is July 31 and Duquette figures to swing at least one deal.
“We’re talking to a number of clubs and these things are fluid,” Duquette said. “We’re looking at a couple of areas where we could address and upgrade the ballclub. I can’t handicap it, but we’re trying. We’re looking for ways to supplement the ballclub through the season.”