What Should The Mariners Do With Backup Catcher Luis Torrens?
When the Seattle Mariners season ended in October, it felt like they had their catcher position figured out with Luis Torrens and Cal Raleigh.
There were tons of question marks about the rest of the roster. Questions about the outfield, including the health of Kyle Lewis. Who will replace team legend Kyle Seager? Who to add to the starting rotation?
But one of the positions the Mariners had to have felt the most comfortable with was catcher.
Luis Torrens had just posted his best season in the big leagues. Although he had a better average in 2020, he had only 70 at-bats and only appeared in 25 games.
In 2021, Torrens finished the season hitting .243 with a .730 OPS and 15 home runs. He also was one of the Mariners who got hot at the end of the season. He hit .338 in September as the Mariners were making their Wild Card push and had seven multi-hit games in the last 21 games he has played.
He had carved himself out a starting role as the everyday catcher on a team that had won 90 games and was in contention for the playoffs until the final day.
Now just over 300 days later we are questioning what his role is on the team.
Torrens hasn’t had the easiest 2022 campaign thus far, and most of it is not his fault.
First off, the emergence of Cal Raleigh’s bat along with his stellar defense behind the dish makes him a no-brainer to start over Torrens.
Even with Cal’s slow start, the Mariners have stuck with him and he has produced. He has raked in 14 homers on the year, which is third on the team behind Julio Rodriguez and Eugenio Suarez.
Cal has also been hitting .245 since May 23.
Torrens also has missed games due to an injury he suffered in the Angels-Mariners brawl at the end of June, and an early season bout with COVID-19.
Torrens went from one of the Mariners most reliable bats in 2021 to someone who doesn’t have a home run this season. and only has two extra-base hits. Torrens is also 10th on the team in strikeouts with 45 and he is only two strikeouts behind eighth despite appearing in almost 60 fewer games and having about 250 fewer at-bats than the current man in eighth, Adam Frazier.
Torrens has a strikeout percentage of .349 which, if he were eligible to register in stat systems, would be first for catchers.It would also be second overall in the league trailing only Brandon Marsh who has a .365 but just a bit ahead of Patrick Wisdom’s .333 and Eugenio Suarez’s .323.
The season ending injury to Tom Murphy put Torrens in a spot where he would get more play time but he hasn’t been able to take advantage. He has only played in back-to-back games once since May 24th.
But what should the Mariners do with Luis Torrens?
They can’t flat out get rid of him without having another catcher to help Raleigh manage the load.
So then that leaves three options.
Trade for a catcher, call up someone from Tacoma, or wait it out and hope that Torrens finds his 2021 form.
I don’t think that all is necessarily lost for Luis Torrens in Seattle.
Sometimes a bad stretch is just a bad stretch and nothing more as we have seen with Adam Frazier in the month of June where his average started at .259 on the last day of May and on the last day of June he was at .223.
However, with the Mariners now showing that they are a good baseball team who has the intent of competing for and winning a World Series, you have to, at the very minimum, evaluate all options for the position.
The first “outside” option is down I-5 ,or Highway 509 depending on traffic, and that is Tacoma Rainiers catcher Brian O’Keefe.
With how he was hitting last year it wouldn’t have been a surprise if he had made an appearance on the roster had anything happened to Torrens towards the end of last year.
He finished last year with a slash line of .286/.351/.508 in AA Arkansas and a .255/.348/.468 for the Rainiers where he got most of his at-bats (216 with Tacoma).
Now he is almost at his same at-bat mark this year, 211, and he is slashing .270/.347/.517 with a whopping .864 OPS ranking third on the team for anyone with over 30 games played behind only Jarred Kelenic and Sam Haggerty.
O’Keefe could likely be a good placeholder for the rest of the season while the Mariners figure out how they want to approach their backup catcher position before the eventual rise of Harry Ford.
But if the Mariners are looking for a serious impact at catcher and not just a stopgap, they should look to the trade market.
The hottest name on the catcher trade market right now is Cubs catcher Willson Contreras.
As nice as it would be to add him, I think it would be too rich for Jerry Dipoto’s blood.
The Mariners just cleared out infield prospects Noelvi Marte and Edwin Arroyo along with pitching prospects Levi Stoudt and Andrew Moore. I doubt they are looking to possibly have to trade another two top 10 prospects for a few month rental in Contreras. So I think they would be out on him.
Another seemingly attractive name would be last years Mariner killer, Salvador Perez. But man does his contract scare me.
I also don’t believe he has much of a trade market as he rehabs from a thumb injury that was said to keep him out for about eight weeks.
Ultimately I think a fantastic get for the Mariners would be the Philadelphia Phillies backup catcher Garrett Stubbs.
Stubbs is having a good season, albeit on limited at-bats.
He is slashing .275/.333/.522 on 75 plate appearances this year.
I think the Phillies, who currently share the final National League Wild Card spot with the St. Louis Cardinals, wouldn’t have any urgency to let him go so they can make a playoff push in the tough NL.
But the Mariners have an incentive to get this done.
Stubbs ranks 6th on his team in WAR with 0.9 and is the 21st ranked catcher in WAR. Torrens has a team-worst -0.6.
He also has a way lower strikeout percentage than Torrens this year with a .226 for Stubbs which is a little bit higher than his career average.
But I think most importantly, Stubbs has done, again on limited at-bats, what made Torrens successful last year, mash lefties.
Torrens last year had a .275/.311/.542 slash including 19 extra-base hits with nine homers against lefties. But this year he has suffered, batting .170 with an OPS below .450 against them.
Stubbs on the other hand is hitting .313 vs southpaws.
He also beats Torrens in the batting against righties department this year as well.
Torrens is hitting .243 with a .537 OPS against right-handers while Stubbs is hitting .264 with a .769 OPS.
There isn’t any move that is going to be a no doubter for Seattle, but something at the backup catcher position has to change.
Whether that is a change in personnel or just simply Luis Torrens playing better.