The Miami Marlins addressed their void at starting catcher by finalizing a trade to acquire veteran Christian Bethancourt from the Cleveland Guardians. While this trade fell short of the dream to sign top free agent backstop Mitch Garver, it does provide Miami with a starting-caliber player at a critically important position.
Is Bethancourt a sleeper pick?
While Bethancourt does not hold the household name power as other catchers on the market, he will prove to be a shrewd addition by President Peter Bendix and the Marlins' front office. Why should Miami fans be excited to add the journeyman? Let's take a look!
Bethancourt's advanced metrics will leave baseball nerds swooning. Over his seven-year MLB career, the veteran has been one of the best defensive catchers in the league, particularly when it comes to limiting would-be base stealers.
The 32-year-old posted incredibly exciting numbers in 2023. He ranked 5th out of 63 players at his position in Catchers Caught Stealing Above Average (a metric that highlights a player's ability to throw out players attempting to steal). Additionally, Bethancourt ranked 2nd of 63 in Pop Time (a metric that "measures the time from the moment the pitch hits the catcher’s mitt to the moment the ball reaches the fielder’s projected receiving point at the center of the base.").
Based on these key metrics it is reasonable to suggest that no player in baseball is more likely to hauls opposing base stealers. The Marlins have just added the very best in an important catcher's category.
For context, 2023 catcher Jacob Stallings ranked 44th in arm strength and pop time. Co-catcher Nick Fortes, who now moves to a backup role, ranked 50th in arm strength and 71st in pop time.
As a result, Miami ranked 23rd in MLB with an average of .80 stolen bases allowed per game. While he was a part of a platoon, Bethancourt's 2023 Tampa Bay Rays ranked 9th best in the league with an average of just .63 steals allowed per contest. The Marlins can expect this type of massive transformation in this area of the game.
Additionally, Bethancourt is a competent pitch framer. While he does leave a bit to be desired in this aspect of the game, the veteran ranked 39th out of 63 last season. While this mark does fall behind his backup Fortes, who ranked 23rd last season, it is much better than Stallings, who ranked 54th overall. The tandem of Bethancourt and Fortes will result in a noticeable improvement in 2024.
There are a number of other reasons to like the Bethancourt trade:
- The fact that the Marlins were able to add a starting-caliber catcher without parting with any players, prospects, or notable pieces.
- The fact that Bethancourt's .225 batting average and 10 homers in 2023, while modest, are both an improvement over Stallings' (.191 average and three homers) and Fortes' (.204 average and six homers).
However, no aspect of Bethancourt's game should excite Marlins' fans more than his stellar defencing ceiling. It may not stand out in the box score. It might even be difficult to notice while watching the games. But Bethancourt's ability to sniffle baserunners will transform the Marlins in 2024 and beyond.
More Marlins Stories