It's pretty clear by now that Joe Mauer has, and may always have, durability issues. Granted, he may come back strong in 2012 and never get hurt again, but that's pretty unlikely. And even if it does turn out that way, he still can't catch every single day.
Clearly, a competent back-up catcher is a requirement on any good team. And, I'm sorry to say, Drew Butera isn't one.
I like Drew. He seems like a great guy, he's fun to follow on Twitter, and I'm sure he's good to his parents. But he shouldn't be considered a major league catcher. Not even a major league back-up catcher.
Now, I defended Drew in the past. Or rather, I defended Carl Pavano's apparent bromance with Drew. But that's when he was batting among eight professional hitters, so it wasn't as much of a problem then. Now, with effective batting such a scarcity, the Twins can ill-afford to tolerate an automatic out at any spot in the lineup.
It's true that Drew is a good defensive catcher. However, I think that aspect of the game is overrated. His ability to block pitches in the dirt and throw out baserunners simply can not overcome his offensive liability. If you think about it, any catcher's defensive game maybe saves a run a game. Maybe. But he comes to the plate three to four times a game.
His .140 batting average and .196 on-base percentage are unsatisfactory for a bench player; they're absolutely unacceptable for someone with 227 plate appearances (compared to Joe Mauer's 202 PAs when he catches). And, to be honest, as skilled as Drew is on the defensive side, I'm not completely sure that another catcher wouldn't be just as good. I'm also pretty sure that most any other catcher would be acceptable for Carl Pavano (and if he isn't, tell Pavano to suck it up, buttercup).
Rene Rivera isn't the answer, either (.152/.202).
So, the Twins can no longer assume that Joe Mauer will be healthy for an entire season, place a warm body in the back-up role, and hope for the best. I do believe that Joe will have a much better season in 2012, and I'm hopeful that his weak-legs days will be behind him for good, but the Twins need to fill the back-up catcher spot with a substantive player.
I'm not asking for a guy who's going to win the Silver Slugger. But I am asking for someone who will, at least, be within earshot of the Mendoza line.
And I'm not alone in this assessment. Twins Geek wrote this thought-provoking post about the subject and then discussed it with Aaron Gleeman on their podcast. (I encourage you to check out their podcast -- they also reviewed the movie "Moneyball." And since you're there, check out that sweet logo, created by your favorite k-bro.)
Unfortunately, I'm not in a position to say who the Twins should target via free agency or trade. But, I'm certain that Bill Smith can find out a lot easier than I can. He just has to do it and see it through.
Since we're on the subject of Drew Butera, here's his paper doll:
I hope I didn't just jinx him by putting this here.
Also, his arms seem disproportionately large, don't they?