As anyone who has followed me either in my writing, on the podcast, or just on Twitter knows my undying love for fellow Canadian backstop George Kottaras. He is undoubtedly my favourite player, and any chance I have to write about him, I take it. I’ve written two almost identical articles to this one, the first in July 2012 when Kottaras was DFA’d by the Brewers, and again in January 2013 when he was again DFA’d by the Athletics.
While it was surprising both the previous times that Kottaras was Designated for Assignment, this one is especially shocking given the lack of depth the Royals seem to have at the position. Currently as things stand the Royals are carrying 3 catchers on their 40-man roster. Behind starter Salvador Perez the Royals have 30-year-old veteran Brett Hayes, and 24-year-old minor league free agent Francisco Pena.
Strangely this is a very eerie parallel with the players on the Blue Jays 40 man roster. Hayes ideally is a Quad A #3 catcher, just like the Jays have in Josh Thole. Thole actually manages to be better than Hayes. Thole is 3 years younger than Hayes, and also carried a 150 wRC+ in AAA, while Hayes managed a disappointingly average 92 wRC+ at the same AAA level.
Similarly the Royals have a young catcher yet to play at the major league level yet, just like the Jays. However in the Jays case, they have legitimate prospect A.J. Jimenez, while the Royals have Francisco Pena, who they signed to a minor league contract just a week ago.
As being reported by Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star, this decision is motivated by money. The Royals seem to be scared off by Mr. Kottaras’ projected $1.2 Mil arbitration salary, and given one of the Blue Jays alternatives is J.P. Arencibia and his projected $2.8 Mil salary, they should certainly consider Kottaras rather closely.
Even though I’ve gone over Kottaras’ virtues in previous articles, let’s quickly restate them.
George Kottaras Has Elite Skills
Unlike most bench players in the league, Mr. Kottaras is elite in certain aspects of the game. Over the past 2 seasons, Mr. Kottaras has posted a 18.2% walk rate, and the only player in all of baseball to post a higher walk rate than Mr. Kottaras is his fellow Torontonian Joey Votto. In addition to his elite patience at the plate, Kottaras also has terrific power. His isolated power of .199 would rank him 5th among catchers in all of baseball, (behind just Evan Gattis, Willin Rosario, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Erik Kratz). These specific talents, more than make up for his woeful contact skills (and the resulting .180 batting average), which allows him to post a wRC+ above 100. The ability to have not only a catcher, but a backup at that, who is an above average hitter, is a giant asset.
George Kottaras is Left Handed
Much like many of his fellow Canadians, Kottaras is a left-handed batter. This is a huge asset when it comes to catchers. Last season in all of baseball, there were only 4 lefty catchers who were given more than 200 at bats (in addition to 7 switch hitters).
George Kottaras Has Caught A Knuckleball Before
While Mr. Kottaras is not a plus defender, he does have vital experience catching a knuckleball before. Mr. Kottaras spent all of 2009 being Tim Wakefield’s personal catcher. During that season, he gave up just 8 passed balls, while the Jays combination of Henry Blanco & Josh Thole gave up a shocking 17. This is not to say that Kottaras is an otherworldly defender in any way, but he’s proven that he can handle the delicate knuckleball, and more importantly not let his struggles on defense ruin him emotionally.
There are only a handful of catchers in the entire world who have any type of experience with the knuckleball, and that is certainly an asset that should make Mr. Kottaras even more appealing to the Blue Jays, than he would to other teams in the league.
Finally George Kottaras is Canadian… and Amazing!!!
If you don’t know, George Kottaras is a born and raised Torontonian. He was born in Scarborough, he grew up in Markham, and I believe he lives in the Southern Ontario region. This isn’t something that I would go out of my way to acquire if I was running the Jays, but when the opportunity comes along to acquire a capable player, who also happens to be local they should jump on it.
In another vein, George Kottaras can also milk a cow.Yes, you read that right.
While in Texas on a road trip this season, despite being born and raised in a major city, Kottaras managed to trump Texan farm boy Robbie Ross in a cow milking competition. How many catchers can you say that about?
Now that we’ve gone over the assets that Kottaras brings to the table, let’s go over some of the mechanics that would need to be involved in the Jays acquiring my beloved compatriot. Since Kottaras has been Designated For Assignment, the Royals have 10 days to work out a trade, or are forced to place him on waivers. If Kottaras gets to waivers, the Jays will have the #5 priority in placing a waiver claim, behind just the Astros, White Sox, Twins, and Mariners.
Looking at those teams individually,
– The Astros need talent everywhere, and given their low payroll absorbing the 1.1 Mil Kottaras is due won’t be an issue.
– The White Sox only have failed prospect Tyler Flowers behind the plate, and might have the worst catching situation in the league.
– In the span of a week, the Twins have gone from having the strongest catcher position to one of the weakest. Now that Joe Mauer has shifted to first base due to his concussions, and the defensive butchery that is Ryan Doumit likely won’t catch again they are left with rookies Josmil Pinto & Chris Hermann behind the plate. Pinto has plenty of potential, but getting a left-handed caddy for him makes a lot of sense.
Since all 4 of those teams have a major need behind the plate, I think it would be very worthwhile for the Blue Jays to work out a trade before Kottaras reaches waivers. I can’t imagine the cost will be too high, and I feel Kottaras’ value would more than compensate for the loss of a low-level prospect.
While I don’t feel that Mr. Kottaras is a viable alternative for the starting job, I also don’t feel that acquiring Kottaras would prevent them from addressing the starting position in any way.
This is the 3rd time I’ve written this exact topic, and I’m hoping that the 3rd time is the charm.