Austin Hedges or Derek Norris on the Way Out?


The Padres traded away Casey Kelly and catcher Ricardo Rodriguez Thursday in exchange for former top catching prospect Christian Bethancourt from the Atlanta Braves. It leaves the Padres with three major league caliber catchers in Bethancourt, Austin Hedges and Derek Norris. What now?

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To start with – at this point it is unclear if Bethancourt or Hedges can actually cut it offensively in the major leagues. Bethancourt has hit just .219 in 80 games over the past two seasons. Last season veteran A.J. Pierzynski took over most of the catching duties for the Braves while Evan Gattis nabbed them with his bare hands power in 2014.

Derek Norris set a career high in home runs (14) and games last season (147) but saw dips in his batting average down to .250 and OBP to .305. He appears to certainly have the upper hand in the starting catcher role unless…

Could A.J. Preller be getting ready to deal one of these backstops?

The San Diego Union Tribune’s Dennis Lin writes that indeed this could be the case, but Preller isn’t telling too much.

“I think the interest in our catchers throughout the game is strong,” Preller said earlier Thursday. “We have two guys in a spot where it’s hard to find guys, two guys who are regulars and probably plus players. It’s always a good position to be in, having guys other teams are interested in.

“But you need catching and depth and numbers. It’s a comforting thought to know we have two guys there and we also claimed Pinto. … It’s probably a spot you’re always looking to add to.”

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Preller has now acquired about 5 catchers in his short tenure with the Padres, including Ryan Hanigan who was quickly flipped from the Rays to the Padres to the Red Sox last season in exchange for Wil Middlebrooks. This off-season he has also added Yosmil Pinto from the Twins. For what it is worth, Hangian only hit 2 HR with a .247 batting average. I think even Middlebrooks was better than that in his limited success for the Padres in 2015.

At the very least, Norris and Hedges appear to be the most likely to be dealt from the current Padres stable. Hedges showed himself to be a great defender and is still very young. He won’t be arbitration eligible until 2018 and won’t hit free agency at this point until 2022. Exactly where they will go remains a mystery, but with just as many holes as when the Winter Meetings started, one of them is likely to be dealt as the Padres look to add an outfielder, shortstop, and a veteran starting pitcher.

Kelly meanwhile was the final piece left from the Adrian Gonzalez deal. He fought his way back from TJ Surgery to make a few spot starts at the end of the season and show the Braves that he was at least worth a flier on as they rebuild and stock up on young talent. The Braves now have Kelly, Matt Wisler, and Max Fried in their system who graced the Padres top pitching prospects list not long ago.