It’s no secret that the Miami Marlins have a weakness behind the plate. Neither Jacob Stallings nor Nick Fortes has hit a lick in 2023. They struggle to control the running game, too. The tandem’s combined production would be well below replacement level if not for Fortes’ blocking expertise.
That being said, it is notoriously messy for a team to make major catching changes in the midst of a contending season. It’s imperative to preserve the relationships between pitchers and their catchers when things are going well. With Tuesday’s MLB trade deadline approaching, it seemed that the Marlins had resigned themselves to sticking with their internal options and would focus on making upgrades at other positions instead.
However, per multiple reports, the Marlins set aside some time on deadline day to inquire about at least one notable catcher: Kansas City Royals captain Salvador Perez.
The still-rebuilding Royals “entertained offers” for Perez, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The Athletic’s Jayson Stark added that Perez, who has full no-trade protection, would have been willing to make the move to Miami. Alas, the teams could not agree on a fair return package.
Don’t let his 2023 AL All-Star selection fool you: Salvy has been in a gradual decline. His on-base and slugging percentages have fallen annually since 2020. He’s a below-average hitter by wRC+ in his age-33 season. The five-time Gold Glover still catches frequently, but doesn’t do it well—even his impact as a thrower has deteriorated by Statcast’s estimation.
Would Perez still represent an upgrade over Stallings and Fortes? Of course. But one issue is, Perez gets paid like an elite catcher and his contract calls for that to continue through the 2025 season. He has over $50 million guaranteed still coming his way (including a buyout of his 2026 club option).
The other prominent factor impeding serious negotiations is Perez’s sterling reputation in KC, being that he’s a lifetime Royal and the last remaining link to the 2015 championship-winning team. His contract is even deeper underwater than Avisaíl García’s, according to Baseball Trade Values’ formula. However, that fanbase would go ballistic if the Royals traded Perez for García straight up, and understandably so.
To make a Salvy trade palatable from the Royals’ perspective, they would need to get mildly promising players in return. That isn’t happening unless they eat the majority of the money still owed to him. Hence, the lack of progress.
Stallings is a likely non-tender candidate for the Marlins this offseason. Fortes still merits a 40-man roster spot, but his offensive production has cratered since mid-2022—overall, he is underqualified to be their primary catcher if they have real aspirations to be playoff contenders in 2024. The internal options beneath them on the depth chart (Austin Allen, Will Banfield, Paul McIntosh, etc.) do not inspire much confidence, either.
So yeah, the Marlins will resume their catching search in a few months. Although you’d expect Miami to engage other teams who have solid veteran catchers, a barren farm system limits the universe of realistic targets. Salvy will only have $44 million left on his deal by then.
As general manager Kim Ng said during Wednesday’s Marlins game broadcast on Bally Sports Florida, “these deals really do take quite a long time sometimes” to come to fruition. I could see a Salvador Perez trade being an example of that.
Photo courtesy of Kansas City Royals