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Diamondbacks should consider trading for Padres C Derek Norris to improve their catching situation

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If Norris is available in trade talks, the Diamondbacks should at least consider him a possibility. The feasibility of this trade might be difficult

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Diamondbacks could be in the look for an upgrade behind the dish, or at least defensively over incumbent starter Welington Castillo. Castillo is off of a 2.4 bWAR/1.7 fWAR season, which on the surface is acceptable. However, one area Castillo struggled in is pitch framing, despite a strong defensive season overall. Castillo's pitch framing cost the team 3.2 runs over the season. While it isn't alarmingly bad, with a young pitching staff a good framer is very critical.

The best pitch framer on the free agent market was Jason Castro, who just recently signed a 3-year deal with the Minnesota Twins. Castro saved 12.8 runs per game framing, 5th best in baseball and why the Twins went out and signed him. Scrolling down Statcorner's Website, the top framers are guys who wouldn't be available in a trade or would cost an arm and a leg to trade for. The next name on the list that could be available is Padres' catcher Derek Norris. Norris is coming off of the worst season of his MLB career and is a buy-low candidate for the Diamondbacks. Norris presents a possible upgrade behind the plate as a better framer with very much the same offensive upside as Castilo.

Pros:

San Diego has a young catcher in Austin Hedges, who figures to get the bulk of the playing time in the near future on a rebuilding team. Norris struggled to a 55 wRC+ that killed all of his value and dropped his fWAR to -0.4. In the three seasons prior, Norris averaged close to 2.5 fWAR. Regression isn't a one way street either, as Norris somehow managed to hit .186/.255/.328 off of a .238 BABIP despite the best batted ball profile of his career. While his offensive numbers were horrifically bad, I also consider it a big fluke. Norris posted the best Line Drive, Hard Hit, and Fly Ball rates of his career too. Those play well at Chase Field where hard line drive and fly ball contact are XBH.

Defensively he is a better pitch framer than Castillo and Herrmann. Norris saved 5.7 runs framing, 8 runs better than Castillo. Assuming an 8-run improvement behind the dish in terms of framing alone, that's nearly a full extra win. Pitch framing also likely had to do with why the Diamondbacks jettisoned Tuffy Gosewisch, as Tuffy was 3.7 runs below average in terms of framing. Norris also a candidate for positive regression, even if his batted ball profile regresses back towards his career average. I believe his skill set moving forward is closer to his career wRC+ of 93, not the 55 mark he posted in 2016. Moving from Petco Park to Chase Field should easily boost his offensive output.

Cons:

The feasibility of this trade is very low. The Diamondbacks would have to pay more than the rest of the market in order to get Norris because the Padres would be trading one of their better assets inside the division even though they are rebuilding. In 2015, the Padres traded Jesse Hahn and RJ Alvarez in order to land him. Hahn was a tall and high velocity arm with a lot of upside despite missing most Top 100 overall prospect lists and RJ Alvarez is similar although more in the capacity of a reliever than a starter. Obviously Norris' value is lower now than it was coming off of an All-Star season and the Athletics selling high on a likely 2 WAR catcher having an All-Star season. The cost for Norris could come in the form of Braden Shipley, because even though the Padres probably want to unblock Hedge's path to the majors, I don't see a catcher for catcher swap happening any time soon.

In addition, the trade puts the team in a situation where they have to move Welington Castillo somewhere because the team can't afford to keep Norris and Castillo and neither player really deserves a demotion. In order to facilitate such a deal involving both catchers, a 3rd team would most likely have to be involved and those type of deals get tricky. I believe that Norris, despite the awful 2016 campaign holds more market in a trade with Castillo with more control and youth. The likely cost will probably be either Archie Bradley or Braden Shipley. 5 years of Bradley or 6 years of Shipley is too much to ask for.

Conclusion:

I don't see this trade happening at all, even though it makes sense if you're banking on Norris being a significantly better framer and his bat rebounds big in 2017. A move to Chase Field would be a big help for Norris' numbers, as loud air contact is a good way for success at Chase. Despite the big drop in offensive production from a 97 wRC+ to 55 last season, I don't think Norris is as bad a player as he was last season moving forward. The Padres would be reluctant to move him across the division even though they are rebuilding. Norris, similar to AJ Pollock, is someone the Padres might look at as a rebuild value in the first half and if successful move him when his value is at his highest at the trade deadline. With team control going through 2018, Norris would be a hot commodity on the trade market in both the offseason and the deadline if he rebounds in 2017.