Which catcher should the Diamondbacks acquire?
The Diamondbacks want an offensive upgrade at catcher per Mike Hazen’s comments. Many possible acquisitions make an interesting decision, and at the same time the lack of an ideal acquisition makes an unclear decision. Two free agent possibilities caught my attention, but they fell short of an ideal offensive-upgrade catcher:
Omar Narvaez. Last season, his OPS from April through July was .688. His OPS in August/September was .365. Assuming his August quad injury caused his late season slump, his hitting could soar next season. He fell short of ideal by being a left-handed batter because the Diamondbacks are overweighted with left-handed batters. He would be affordable.
Wilson Contreras. Last season, his OPS+ was 128. And signing him could be nearly unaffordable for the Diamondbacks ($60-70 Million for 4 years). Likely, he will be offered a Qualifying Offer, so there will be a penalty for signing him. He fell short of ideal by possibly poor game calling and average pitch framing (last season his zero framing runs ranked #31 among qualified catchers per Baseball Savant).
Two trade possibilities caught my attention.
Sean Murphy. Last season, his OPS+ was 120. There is a lot to like about trading for a young and awesome catcher like Sean Murphy as suggested by scientist_ko in this AZ Snake Pit article. The article suggested the acquisition prospect cost could be Alek Thomas, Jake McCarthy, Blake Walston plus 2 prospects. Obviously, that’s a very high prospect cost! Michael McDermott suggested a different package: Jake McCarthy, Ryne Nelson, De Los Santos plus 1 prospect. Sean Murphy would greatly improve the Diamondbacks, but the prospect cost is too high.
At that point in my deliberations, signing free agent Wilson Contreras looked better than trading for Sean Murphy. But there is another possibility – trade for Danny Jansen.
Danny Jansen. Danny Jansen would be a significant upgrade because in 2022 Danny Jansen’s OPS+ of 141 was much better than Carson Kelly’s OPS+ of 76. Nevertheless, in the last two seasons Danny Jansen’s batting has been wildly inconsistent. His monthly OPS was less than .700 for 5 months and greater than 1.000 for 6 months, with only 1 month in the middle range.
Danny Jansen’s trade value is less than Sean Murphy. Looking at trade values provided at the Baseball Trade Values website, Jake McCarthy and Buddy Kennedy have trade value equal to Danny Jansen. That prospect cost is in my comfort range, especially compared to the cost of acquiring Sean Murphy.
The Blue Jays are a promising trade partner for two reasons: they have a surplus of catchers in the Majors and near-Majors, and they need left-handed batters (Jake McCarthy is a left-handed batter).
The Diamondbacks’ next steps are due diligence and negotiation. Meanwhile, let’s look at reasons for Danny Jansen’s success.
Follow your dream.
Danny Jansen had a dream to play in the Majors, but it was more than that. He had talent and was driven to reach his best. He had mental strength to stay true to his dream and keep pushing forward.
“But you’re driven by the dream to be there one day in the Major Leagues. And I’m never going to quit — I wasn’t raised like that. I have a drive to be the best I can be. That’s what kept me going.” — Danny Jansen
His focus and attitude helped him overcome temporary setbacks and stay focused.
Find the right path to achieve your dream.
He played shortstop in his first three years of little league baseball. Then he changed to catcher. That change put him on his best path.
Moving to the Diamondbacks, where he is likely to get more playing time over the next few seasons, is another change that could put him on the right path.
Find a way to constructively deal with failures.
In pickleball, when my shot fails, I feel angst that my positive expectation did not occur. Instead of angst, perhaps I would be better served by distancing myself from my angst and thinking about how to hit that shot next time – for example do I need to improve how I adjust my swing for the ball’s spin or speed, was my pre-swing position off, or did the situation call for a different type of swing?
In the minors, Danny Jansen would deal with a failed at-bat by giving his bat a timeout while he thought about his next at-bat. It was something that worked for him, perhaps by distancing himself from angst so he can think and learn.
“When the 23-year-old strikes out during a game [Bisons], which doesn’t happen all that often, his bat heads into the garbage [can] until his next turn at the plate, so it can have a good long think about what went wrong.” — Kristina Rutherford
And when an at-bat goes well, he would see that success as contagious momentum.
“Hitting is contagious; it’s a game of momentum and stuff. And I just wanted to go up there and compete, and try to swing at a pitch I can handle. And happy to go over the fence; It’s something to build off of…” — Danny Jansen
Perceive and correct what you don’t want to believe.
My view is that people sometimes deceive themselves, which can make them oblivious to something that they can improve.
Two examples of Danny Jansen breaking though to perceive something were his vision required corrective glasses and his injury recovery required not pushing through it.
“It was 2016, I remember being afar and I was looking at the scoreboard and it was really blurry, everything bleeding together, and I said, ‘That can’t be right, I’ve always had good eyes.’ Once I got glasses it was career changing for me. That’s when I really really progressed and took off.” — Danny Jansen
His dad said glasses were 70% responsible for turning his career around. My view is that his mind-set was the other 30%.
“I did change other things, like my mentality.” — Danny Jansen.
Don’t ignore your #3 priority.
“It’s finding yourself, building off yourself. I pride myself on defense more than anything.” — Danny Jansen, December 2020.
“Hitting has been No. 3 on his priority list his whole career, and he happens to be very good at it. He told me in A-ball, that for him, a good game is measured by: No. 1, pitch calling; No. 2, defense; and then lastly, his hitting.” — Chris Rowley [Jansen’s teammate]
Despite having higher priorities, he improved his hitting. In 2022, his hitting ranked high compared to catchers with at least 20 games in the season (data from Baseball Reference).
- 164 OPS ranked #1
- .855 OPS ranked #2
- 0.5 WPA ranked #8
- 1.1 Situational sins ranked #9
- 2.4 oWAR ranked #11
- 15 Home runs ranked #12
- 1 dWAR ranked #13
- 44 RBIs ranked #17
Important lessons can be learned through struggle.
Struggle is unavoidable because baseball constantly evolves.
Danny Jansen sees struggles as learning opportunities and adversity as something to confront directly.
“I really believe that I’ve turned over a new leaf — just mentally within myself. I really feel like I’ve freed myself up. I’ve had a lot of struggle. And I’ve tried to learn through that struggle. I try to make as much as I can from it. Honestly, it’s just taken me a while to learn who I am as a hitter. And to stop trying to be somebody I’m not. Just having a strong approach, knowing who I am, believing in myself and my preparation — it’s helped me take a humongous step in the mental side of the game.” — Danny Jansen
When you don’t rush, great things can happen.
When he injured his hamstrings, he learned the importance of not pushing through to play with an injury. Instead, success happens when the muscle is given time to recover (my view is that during recover appropriate exercises and stretching are also important).
“And just learning from the hamstrings last year, we want to get to a place where it won’t happen again. Where I can be part of the team later in the season. It’s hard to take right now. But I’ve just got to keep that bigger picture in mind.” — Danny Jansen
And beyond that lesson, during his recovery he thought about who he was as a hitter. That was a great thing. Let’s look at it!
Know who you are.
Danny Jansen struggled with the everyday wisdom that batters do better by hitting to all fields. Instead of focusing on hitting to all fields equally, he focused on his strength of pull hitting.
“Honestly, I can’t say enough how huge the mental progress I’ve made is. I really feel like I’m in a great space. And I’m really happy and proud of how I got there. I know who I am. I know why I’m here. And I think when you know those things and truly understand what your strengths are, it frees you up.” — Danny Jansen
He listened to other people and embraced what worked for him while rejecting what did not work for him.
“Know who you are at the core. Be the best you. Live from your point-of-view while having compassion for points-of-view of other people.” — One of three life imperatives, Makakilo, AZ Snake Pit Roundtable, January 2020.
We briefly looked at two free agents and two trade candidates. Trading for Danny Jansen is a promising possibility for the Diamondbacks. The trade could be a win for both the Blue Jays and the Diamondbacks.
In 2022, Danny Jansen’s batting ranked high for a catcher. Offensively, he would be an upgrade from Carson Kelly.
Danny Jansen’s mindset contributed to his success. Takeaway lessons follow:
- Follow your dream and be the best you.
- Find the right path to achieve your dream
- Find a way to constructively deal with failures.
- Perceive and correct what you don’t want to believe.
- Don’t ignore your #3 priority.
- Important lessons can be learned through struggle.
- When you don’t rush, great things can happen.
- Know who you are.