I’m on the record– assuming that Twitter counts as “the record”– as not being particularly enamoured with Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan. The Jays, on the other hand, may not feel the same way. They’ve inquired about him, according to a piece from earlier in the week at Sportsnet from Shi Davidi, and with Devin Mesoraco and now Brayan Pena now in place behind the plate for Cincinnati, it seems certain that Hanigan’s name has entered a grim looking catching market.
Buster Olney thinks so too:
Ryan Hanigan is going to be traded and there is interest from multiple teams, and the Reds think they’ll get a good prospect in return.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 15, 2013
Now, a statement like that could just be posturing from the Reds, or a hopeful attempt to get some of Hanigan’s suitors to up their offer, but… maybe?
Drew wrote about Hanigan last week at Getting Blanked, passing along a Dave Cameron tweet, in which the FanGraphs man pointed us to a leaderboard showing that, over their careers, Hanigan has been more valuable than Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and saying that he’d take Hanigan straight up for 2014.
The two players took divergent paths in 2013, though. Saltamacchia posted a 117 wRC+, while Hanigan’s was a paltry 53– lower than J.P. Arencibia’s, even. Hanigan’s season was hampered by oblique and wrist injuries, plus a abysmally low BABIP (.216, compared to a career mark of .283), which may suggest some manner of bounce back should be in the cards for next year, but I’m still not sure that’s enough to offset the fact that– as Drew points out– his vaunted 11.2% walk rate is a bit of a mirage.
Because he hit almost exclusively ahead of the pitcher, Hanigan picked up an inordinate number of intentional walks– not to mention a few “unintentional intentional walks” as well, no doubt. Nine of the 29 walks he took over his 260 plate appearances were intentional, making his “real” walk rate more like 7.7%. Same goes for the year before: over 317 plate appearances, thirteen of 44 walks were intentional, making his walk rate 9.8%, not the 11.9% you’ll see on his FanGraphs page.
That’s still decent, of course. Especially the 2012 rate. It’s still better than what we saw from Arencibia. And his career .359 on-base, inflated as it might be, is still pretty terrific, plus his reputation as a pitch framer and defensive catcher is beyond reproach. Still, Drew pretty much hits the nail on the head:
Many worse hitters got playing time in the National League as defense-first, “catch and throw” backstops. That’s fine. Ryan Hanigan is good at that. Let him do that. But to insist that Hanigan is anything more is fool-hardy. Misguided. A waste of everyone’s time. He is not a better option as an everyday catcher in the big leagues than Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Not in a vacuum which ignores the not-insignificant “every day” part of that equation.
“Many teams would be well-served with Hanigan in their ranks,” Drew explains, “in the proper role.”
And that’s the rub. Hanigan has played more than 100 games only once in his career. He also has a pronounced platoon split: a right-handed hitter, before the disaster that was this year he killed lefties. What that would mean though, were he to come to Toronto, is a whole lot of Josh Thole. It also means, because he made $2.05-million last year and is arbitration eligible for the last time this winter, just about any kind of savings that the Jays might find by jettisoning Arencibia ($2.8-million per MLBTR) would be immediately lost if they made a play for Hanigan.
On the other hand, someone has to catch for this team, and it’s highly unlikely they’re going to find someone reasonable who’ll do it for the league minimum. But still… giving up a decent prospect for that???
I don’t know. Maybe?
I suppose it comes down to what is meant by a “good” prospect. Surely it wouldn’t be close one of the Jays’ actual top ones. Sean Nolin, perhaps? But shit, that’s even pretty fucking high. A fringy reliever who’s out of options I could understand, but a prospect??? A “good” one? I mean… do we even want the Jays to pay anything to acquire a guy who is going to force a shit-tonne more playing time onto Thole?
Matt Klaassen takes a lengthy look at Hanigan over at FanGraphs, being kinder than I’ve been in trying to see the injuries and poor batted ball luck as a reason for the sudden decline in 2013. He writes:
Going season-by-season with Hanigan’s numbers is a bit dicey, since he never has had a full season of plate appearances — he had 371 in 2012, and that was the most of his career by far. His 304 in 2011 was the only other time he has has more than 300 in one season. With that sample size caution noted, we do need to compare a bit to see if there is any particularly troubling change in 2013 in the peripherals. If we break things to into more precise units, we find that the peripherals indicative or true talent over small samples for Hanigan are pretty much the same in 2013 as in previous seasons. His strikeout rate is still low (is has been about 12 percent for the past three seasons) due to his excellent contact rate (over 90 percent, as it has been for his career. Hanigan’s 2013 power numbers (.063 ISO) are poor, and have been on the decline for a few years, but a .063 ISO is actually the same as 2012, and power is not really a major part of Hanigan’s (limited) offensive game, anyway, which is primarily about taking walks and making contact.
Klaassen counters that by noting, with regard to the injuries, that the Reds know more than anybody else right now, which could be telling. On the other hand, “Hanigan’s skillset is tailor made for a team that emphasizes walks and values defense from the position,” he says, and he wonders if the Reds saw that he’d have value on this market, and jumped at Pena knowing that they could use Hanigan “to upgrade another hole of their roster that Mesoraco couldn’t fill.”
And maybe I’m being too hard on him, given how hopeful I am that guys like Brandon Morrow, Jose Bautista, and Melky Cabrera will end up just fine, or close enough to it, in 2014. But man… as easy as it is for a lot of fans to say “I just want a defense-first guy, I don’t care if he can’t hit,” it’s… um… man. I know the position is dog shit right now, but seriously, we really can’t do better than this???