The Milwaukee Brewers need to make upgrades at a couple of positions this offseason. One such position is catcher.
Omar Narvaez is a free agent and is coming off a season where he hit .206 with a .597 OPS. Victor Caratini hit .199 with a .642 OPS in 2022. The Brewers need better production. Prospect Mario Feliciano should jump up to take big league duties in 2023, but the Brewers like veteran catchers and pairing Feliciano with a veteran should be beneficial for both player and club.
But is Caratini the right veteran for the Brewers to rely on in 2023? His numbers took a nosedive in the second half and he never has been a particularly great hitter in the big leagues. They tendered him a contract for 2023, but they could always trade him just like they did to Hunter Renfroe, who was also tendered a contract.
There is a decent amount of catching options on the free agent and trade market, but the ones that should intrigue the Brewers the most are north of the border.
The Milwaukee Brewers should try to trade for a catcher from the Toronto Blue Jays this offseason.
The Toronto Blue Jays have made it known across the league this offseason that they are looking to trade from their crop of catchers. It seems they are open to any of them being traded for the right return. In essence, they have three high quality options and only two spots on the roster, so before someone else pounces and Toronto closes up shop on the catcher market, Milwaukee should get a deal done.
The three catchers in question are Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk, and Gabriel Moreno.
Jansen, 27, is the most experienced of the group. He has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining before free agency and is projected to earn $3.7MM in 2023, just about a million dollars more than Caratini is projected to get. But Jansen slashed .260/.339/.516 with 15 homers, an .855 OPS, a 141 OPS+, and a 2.9 bWAR. That production from the catcher spot would be well worth the slight increase in salary over Caratini.
Alejandro Kirk, 24, was an All Star in 2022. He has four years of team control remaining and isn't arbitration eligible until next offseason. Kirk slashed .285/.372/.415 with 14 homers, a .786 OPS, a 126 OPS+, and a 3.9 bWAR. Again, that would be a massive improvement in offensive production from the catcher spot and he's also a quality defender.
Gabriel Moreno, 22, is one of the top prospects in all of baseball. He made his MLB debut in 2022, getting 69 at-bats and hitting .319/.356/.377 with a 111 OPS+. He has all six seasons of team control remaining and won't reach arbitration until 2026.
Which Blue Jays catcher should the Brewers target in a trade?
The Brewers tend to like their catchers to have a little more experience at the big league level, so I think we can rule out trading for Gabriel Moreno.
Jansen and Kirk are both excellent options to leading your catching corps. Jansen comes with only two years of control and would already be more expensive than the Crew's current option in Caratini. Jansen is clearly better than Caratini but the Brewers are quite budget-conscious this offseason, so it's important to note. Kirk is coming off an All Star season, has four years of control, and is still pre-arbitration. Because of that, Kirk will entice the Brewers, but all of that also means the prospect cost to acquire him will be higher.
The Brewers should try to land either Jansen or Kirk as they would both present a major upgrade, but I think Danny Jansen sticks out as the more likely trade target for Milwaukee.
As much as the Brewers haven't been keen on spending lots of money, they also haven't been keen on spending lots of prospect capital in trades. The front office recognizes emptying the farm system, even for really good players, hurts their chances of remaining "competitive" year after year and avoiding lengthy rebuilds. Because Jansen would likely cost less to acquire and puts up as good or even better numbers than Kirk, he makes the most sense as a target for the Crew.
To add to Jansen's case, he is a Wisconsin native, born and raised in Appleton. That may or may not play a factor in the Brewers potentially being interested in him, but it certainly doesn't hurt that he's from the area and that may make it easier to sign him long-term if they so choose.
However, the Brewers also do have a type with beefy players and Alejandro Kirk is listed at 5'8" and 265 pounds. He would fit the Brewers perfectly, but would they be willing to part with the prospects necessary to pry Kirk away? We'll have to wait and see, but Kirk would likely be worth the cost.
Both Jansen and Kirk strike out at below-average rates and draw walks more than 10% of the time. In Kirk's case, he walks more than he strikes out, with just a 10.7% K rate and 11.6% BB rate. The Brewers could use a guy like that. Jansen struck out a career-low 17.7% of the time in 2022.
Whether it's Jansen or Kirk, the Brewers should be calling the Blue Jays non-stop and work to get a deal done to acquire one of them. Passing on the chance to acquire either to stick with Victor Caratini would be a mistake and an easily avoidable one. The farm is stocked enough to make a move to help this team win right now. Get it done, Matt Arnold.