Among the many needs the San Diego Padres must address entering the 2024 season? The catcher position.
The Padres deployed a handful of backstops this past season, from Austin Nola and Brett Sullivan to Luis Campusano and Gary Sanchez. And let's just say ... the results weren't ideal across the board.
That's what should make this latest rumor out of New York particularly appetizing to the Padres: the Yankees are reportedly willing to trade from their catching surplus.
San Diego Padres rumors: Yankees willing to trade possible 2024 catching options
Specifically, SNY's Andy Martino reports that the Yankees are open to the idea of trading catchers Ben Rortvedt and/or Kyle Higashioka with their tandem of Jose Trevino and Austin Wells essentially locked in for 2024. And with the Padres already talking blockbuster trades with New York, a move like this would be a can of corn.
Neither Rortvedt or Higashioka are impressive hitters, but both are lauded for their defense, which is evidenced by the Yankees' top-10 ranking in catcher defensive runs saved (DRS) in 2023, per FanGraphs.
For comparison, Padres' catchers placed right at league average, with exactly 0 DRS in 2023. And given how much time Gary Sanchez, a notoriously bad defender, spent behind the dish for San Diego this past season, that figure actually seems generous.
Nevertheless, the opportunity now exists for the Friars to upgrade their backstop room. Despite Sanchez hitting 19 home runs in 2023 and Luis Campusano posting a 134 OPS+, those metrics were achieved over small sample sizes of 240 at-bats and 163 at-bats, respectively. And combined? That's still not even a full season's worth of data to analyze. We need to see more, and whether this production is actually repeatable in 2024.
Not to mention, defense also matters. This year's World Series teams, the Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks, both rank significantly ahead of the Padres in many fielding metrics, for example. It seems past time for the Padres to catch up in this area.
San Diego already possesses an abundance of talent in its batting order. That means the priority for A.J. Preller and the Padres' front office should be improving defensively next season. Acquiring one of Ben Rortvedt or Kyle Higashioka from the Yankees (and likely for cheap) to anchor the pitching staff would be a positive step towards accomplishing that goal.