On July 9th, Luis Torrens played his final game at catcher during the Seattle Mariners’ regular season. Torrens made just one error over the course of his 35 games at catcher, but his overall defensive rating (via Fangraphs) was a dreadful -2.7; DEF measures a player’s defensive value in comparison to the league average at that position, where a DEF of 0 is league average.
After Torrens’ mishaps behind the plate, it was unclear if he had a future with the Mariners. However, his bat came alive in the second half of the season, posting a .259 BA with six home runs and 27 RBIs while serving as the team’s primary DH after the All-Star Break. He was particularly good against lefties, posting a .275/.311/.542 slash line with nine home runs, 23 RBIs, and a .854 OPS over the course of the season.
Luis Torrens has the hitting tools to be an everyday player, but his best chance for success is to improve his abilities as a catcher, not switching positions.
The Mariners have a solid young defensive catcher in Cal Raleigh (DEF of 5.6), but he has a ways to go with his offensive production before being trusted as an everyday catcher. Veteran Tom Murphy is not expected to be tendered a contract for next year, so the opportunity to be the primary catcher in Seattle appears to be up for grabs.
Seattle has been linked to potentially trading with the Chicago Cubs this offseason for two-time All-Star Willson Contreras, as the Cubs are rebuilding and Contreras is a stud with just one year left on his contract. However, I believe the Mariners would be best served to hold on to any valuable prospects that would potentially be traded for Contreras, and instead put in an offseason of work with Luis Torrens to guide him towards being the starting catcher in Seattle.
In the offseason following the 2019 campaign, the Mariners decided to part ways with Omar Narvaez, a sweet-swinging young catcher with limited defensive abilities. However, the Milwaukee Brewers (Narvaez’s new team) helped develop Narvaez’s skills behind the plate, and he ended up as an NL All-Star this season and finishing 4th in the MLB with a 16.4 DEF rating.
The Mariners did bring over a valuable draft pick in the Narvaez trade (one that was eventually used on current #8 prospect Connor Phillips), but I have to say I’d prefer the Mariners would have had Narvaez on the roster during the 2021 season and moving forward. Hindsight, of course, is 20/20, so all I hope at this point is for Seattle to not make the same mistake with Luis Torrens.
Torrens is just 25, has four years left of team control, and clearly has a bat that can play in the big leagues. If the Mariners can take a page out of the Brewers’ book and turn a below-average defensive catcher into an all-around asset, Seattle could have a formidable 1-2 punch with Torrens and Raleigh behind the plate for the next few seasons.