As we get into the off-season there are players on this roster who will no doubt be talked about in trades either to bring back pitching or to make room on the 40-man roster so that some of the Rule V guys can get added to the roster before the deadline. I am going to write about a few guys I feel like could be in that category. My first player to ask whether the Rangers should trade or keep is Jonah Heim.
Heim was pressed into the starting catching role this season when Mitch Garver was no longer able to catch due to this torn flexor tendon injury. Heim performed quite well in that role. He should have been an All-Star due to his first half performance. He batted .262, with a .781 OPS, 12 home runs, and 33 RBI’s. His numbers exceeded that of Jose Trevino who was picked for the All Star team.
It stands to reason why am I writing about trading him when he put up those first half numbers. Well, he followed up that 1st half with a .181 batting average, .589 OPS, and only four home runs in the second half. The reasons given at the time was that he was wearing down in the second half. That is understandable. He played in more games in 2022 than he has in his entire career going back to the minor leagues.
It also begs the question, can he hold up at his size as a full-time catcher? If he is not your full-time catcher, does he have more value being used as trade asset than to the Rangers?
Should the Texas Rangers keep or trade Jonah Heim in 2023?
The Rangers catching situation heading into 2023 is one to watch. Mitch Garver is expected to be fully healthy and able to catch next season and still has one more season till free agency. Jonah Heim having been the starting catcher is still here. Sam Huff who showed off some serious power finally this season, needs to be given an opportunity after several seasons in the minor leagues. They brought in Kevin Plawecki to spell Heim and provide some defense at the end of the season and he is an option to bring back. They still have Meibrys Vallorias at AAA who played in several games as well. That is a bunch of catchers with not a lot of space on the roster.
The only one who may be attractive to other teams this offseason is Jonah Heim. A team trading for Heim would have him for 4 more seasons till he reaches free agency at age 31. He showed good power for a catcher, a good ability to frame pitches, and played good defense as well back there. His big weakness is the running game. He only caught 19% of the runners trying to steal a base.
The trade market for catching always seems to be more active in the off-season than at the deadline. It is hard, but not impossible to work in a catcher in the heat of the season. Most teams would prefer to have their catchers in place at the start of camp so that they can start working with the pitchers and learn their tendencies in the laid back atmosphere of spring training. It figures if the Rangers are going to trade Heim or one of their other catchers it will be this off-season.
So which teams will be looking for catchers this off-season? Houston, who traded for Christian Vasquez at the deadline, will be still looking as Vasquez becomes a free agent and might not come back. The Cubs might lose Willson Contreras to FA this off-season and so they will be on the lookout for a catcher. The Angels who will be losing Kurt Suzuki to retirement and didn’t get much production from Max Stassi likely will be on the lookout for help at that position. St Louis Cardinals lose long-time catcher Yadier Molina to retirement and will be looking to replace him. The last team is Miami who is looking to add more offense to their lineup and could use someone like Heim.
Jonah Heim is a valuable piece to the Rangers. Each of those teams save for the Angels have good enough pieces to make a trade that will improve the Rangers roster. Then the question must become is if you trade Heim are you really prepared to hand over the catching duties to Mitch Garver and Sam Huff? Neither are strong defensively, and are known more for their bats than their catching abilities. The team just hired a former catcher to be their manager.
Which brings me to my last question, what does Bruce Bochy, a former catcher, want in his catchers. Is he looking for guys who are offensive machines who also are decent at defense? Does he want catchers who are good game managers who can may not be as strong offensively? Does he want to try and find someone who is a combination of both? It is hard to get a read from his previous stops as he had Buster Posey for most of his run in SF.
Posey is a borderline Hall of Fame type catcher. It is hard to make a comparison between Posey and the players currently on the Rangers roster. Looking at his previous teams that competed for the playoffs, they all had a catcher that was strong defensively, controlled the running game, and could hit.
I do think trading Heim is a possibility this off-season, but far from a certainty. There are teams out there looking for catching. Willson Contreras is the best catcher on the market and when he signs, the teams still looking for catchers will likely call Texas to gauge their interest on trading Jonah Heim. The Rangers have plenty of depth at that position both at the MLB level and in the minors. I think when teams start calling Texas will be in a position to really drive the trade talks. It will all come back to if they are willing to just go with a group of catchers that are not exactly known to be able to carry a full load at that position.