Twins To Sign Christian Vazquez

6:17pm: It’s a $30MM guarantee, reports Ted Schwerzler of Twins Daily (Twitter link).

6:01pm: It’s a three-year contract, reports Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe (on Twitter).

5:55pm: The Twins are in agreement with catcher Christian Vazquezaccording to Jon Heyman of The New York Post. Chris Cotillo of MassLive had tweeted that Vázquez’s market was heating up earlier this evening.

Vázquez was the top remaining free agent catcher once Willson Contreras came off the board last week. The A’s moved Sean Murphy to Atlanta in a three-team blockbuster this afternoon. Minnesota now jumps in to land the catcher they’ve sought all offseason.

A longtime member of the Red Sox, Vázquez now changes uniforms for the second time in five months. Boston dealt him to the Astros at this past summer’s trade deadline, bringing back prospects Wilyer Abreu and Enmanuel Valdez for the final half-season before he hit free agency. That left Vázquez in an unfamiliar role splitting time with Martin Maldonadobut it positioned him for his second World Series title.

Vázquez is one of the best all-around catchers in the game. A light-hitting defensive specialist for his first few seasons, the Puerto Rico native has taken a step forward with the bat over the past four years. He hit .276/.320/.477 in 521 plate appearances in 2019, popping a career-best 23 home runs. Vázquez has never replicated that kind of power outside a season with perhaps the liveliest ball the league has ever used, never reaching double digit longballs in another season. Still, he’s been an adequate hitter in two of the past three years. Vázquez stumbled to a .258/.308/.352 mark in 2021, but he was an above-average hitter during the abbreviated 2020 campaign and roughly league average this past season.

Going back to the start of 2019, he owns a .271/.318/.416 line in slightly more than 1600 plate appearances. That’s five percentage points below league average overall, by measure of wRC+, but it’s above par for a catcher. Backstops have a cumulative .232/.304/.390 mark over that stretch. Vázquez doesn’t draw many walks and, 2019 aside, rarely hits for power. His high-contact approach differentiates him from most of his positional peers, as he owns the fifth-lowest strikeout percentage among catchers (minimum 750 plate appearances) over that stretch.

The 2022 season was generally for the course. Among 29 catchers with 300+ trips to the dish, he had the fourth-lowest strikeout rate (16.2%) and fourth-best rate of making contact per swing (85.1%). Overall, Vázquez posted a 274/.315/.399 line in 119 games. He carried an impressive .282/.327/.432 mark with the Red Sox before the trade but stumbled to a .250/.278/.308 showing in 35 regular season games as an Astro. Vázquez also did very little offensively in his six-game playoff showing.

The Twins clearly aren’t deterred by that slow finish to the year. That came in an unfamiliar role dividing his reps with Maldonado, and Minnesota presumably anticipates he’ll more closely approximate his production from his time in Boston. Offense is only part of the story, of course, and Vázquez has an excellent reputation with the glove.

For his career, Vázquez has nabbed just under 34% of attempted basestealers. He had a more modest 27.1% mark this year, but that’s still narrowly above the roughly 25% league average. Statcast also credits him with a better than average arm, placing 20th among 73 catchers with 10+ throws in pop time (average time to throw to second base). Vázquez also consistently draws strong grades from public pitch framing metrics. Paired with his ability to control the running game, he’s been rated as an above-average catcher by measure of Defensive Runs Saved in all but one season of his career. DRS pegged him 11 runs above par in 2022 and has rated him as 51 runs above average over his eight years in the majors.

More to come.

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