Bilingual Bethancourt added in trade with Guardians

December 13th, 2023

MIAMI -- The Marlins took a step toward filling their biggest offseason need on Sunday by acquiring catcher from the Guardians for cash. Miami’s 40-man roster is now full.

Bethancourt, 32, appeared in a career-high 104 games for the Rays in 2023, batting .225 with 16 doubles and 11 homers. But René Pinto surpassed him on the depth chart late in the season, and Cleveland claimed Bethancourt from Tampa Bay on Nov. 6.

"I think it's just part of the game that you're going to have a good year, you're going to have an OK year," Bethancourt said on Wednesday. "At some point, you're going to have a bad year. And personally for me, it's always about being positive and [sticking] to what brought me to the big leagues and what can keep me as the good guy in the clubhouse and other things I can do outside the field.

"[I'm] talking about in [the] clubhouse that I can help the team in different ways and not just by getting three hits, two homers, every night. Those are the things I want to bring now that I'm with the Marlins, and I know I can help. And it does help a lot that I'm bilingual and I can communicate great with the American guys and also [be] a good helper for the Latin guys."

Marlins president of baseball operations Peter Bendix saw Bethancourt's value behind the dish during their overlapping time with the Rays from 2022-23. Though he struggled in blocks above average (-10) and framing (-2), his pop time (1.87 seconds) and caught stealing above average (5) were elite this season, according to Baseball Savant, thanks to his strong arm.

That can help neutralize the opposition's running game, something the Marlins struggled with (0.80 steals per game, tied for seventh most in MLB).

"It’s all really important, and having to ask somebody to do all of those defensive things and also hit a little bit," Bendix said during the Winter Meetings. "It's really difficult, but there's a lot of different ways that you can get value with the catching position. As long as you have good relationships with the pitchers, then there's a lot of other different things that you can do as well."

Bethancourt joins Nick Fortes as the only catchers on Miami's 40-man roster, and the club might not be done adding to the position. Offensive-minded options in Gary Sánchez and Mitch Garver remain on the free-agent market.

Last week, Bendix went on to say the playing-time allocation will depend on the personnel. In 2023, Fortes (85 starts) and Jacob Stallings (77 starts) had a near-even split while serving as personal catchers to members of the rotation. Bethancourt being able to speak both English and Spanish is an added bonus for a rotation that features English speakers Braxton Garrett and Trevor Rogers, bilingual Jesús Luzardo and Spanish speakers Edward Cabrera and Eury Pérez.

”You want a catcher that is a leader that pitchers love throwing to that can figure out how guys can -- like Cabrera can throw more strikes or that Luzardo can now be a Cy Young [contender] or whatever it is, and can hold guys accountable," manager Skip Schumaker said at the Winter Meetings. "That's a big position. It's not just strictly an offensive position to me because we are so pitching-heavy that you need to be able to throw to a guy that you love throwing to. The offensive part, obviously, we would love to have, but I think having a leader back there that it's really, really important that's done it before."