Last season the A’s traded away starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez and a minor league player to the Washington Nationals for four minor league prospects. Pitchers Tommy Milone, Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole, and catcher Derek Norris all came over in the deal from D.C. Peacock was traded to the Houston Astros in the Jed Lowrie deal back in February and Cole was traded back to the Nationals in the John Jaso trade. Milone has been a mainstay in the A’s rotation over the past two seasons pitching relatively well albeit with some hiccups. The one player who seemed destined to be an instant hit in Oakland was Norris. Norris was called up in the middle of last season once the A’s traded Kurt Suzuki to the Nationals. While his defense and game calling is excellent his offense has struggled mightily.
June 11, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics catcher Derek Norris (36) hits a three run home run against the New York Yankees during the fourth inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Norris finished last season offensively with a .201 AVG, .276 OBP, .349 Slugging. When Norris came over from the Nationals scouts praised his careful eye at the plate and relative power (remind anyone of Daric Barton). Even though his game calling and general defense shined through, his offense sputtered including his praised OBP. His eye at the plate was not the one the A’s had expected when he came over.
This season has seen more of the same offensively from Norris. His numbers have even slipped. Norris’ 2013 numbers so far: .188 AVG, .299 OBP, .303 Slugging. Not very good for an everyday Major League player. His defense has again been above average, but the lack offense from a player that Manager Bob Melvin called the “catcher of the future” for the A’s is slowly becoming an alarming sign.
Norris making just South of $500K this season and will continue to make around there until 2016 when he becomes arbitration eligible for the first time. For the A’s having a catcher who can handle their young pitchers is just as important as having offensive potential, especially at a price like Norris’. However, there will come a point in the near future where Norris will have to produce with the bat or it may be time to move on.
If the A’s do move on however their platoon system will take a major hit. That would leave Jaso as the everyday catcher and, as of right now, either Luke Montz or Stephen Vogt as the back up catcher. That would not be the worst thing ever however having a catcher who has caught the younger part of the rotation for almost a full season certainly has an effect on how the A’s will approach the Norris situation.
Derek Norris certainly has potential and a high ceiling. He has not reached it yet, and unfortunately he looks to have taken a step back offensively this year. If he does not heat up with the bat look for the A’s to give Norris one more year and possibly move on. It would be a tough move considering catcher is one position within the organization that lacks depth.