Twins agree to 3-year deal with veteran backstop Vázquez
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins on Friday filled one of their most pressing offseason needs by agreeing to a three-year, $30 million deal with veteran catcher Christian Vázquez.
Under manager Rocco Baldelli and current team leadership, the Twins have shown a strong preference for running a timeshare behind the plate, and in the 32-year-old Vázquez, Minnesota has found a respected Spanish-speaking veteran to partner with former top prospect Ryan Jeffers -- one who brings four seasons of playoff experience, including a pair of World Series titles.
Though Vázquez spent the first seven-plus seasons of his career with the Red Sox, becoming Boston's longest-tenured player, he was traded to the Astros at last season's Trade Deadline and appeared in six postseason games as part of Houston's run to the championship. Vázquez was behind the plate for the Astros' combined no-hitter against the Phillies in Game 4 of the Fall Classic.
Both Vázquez and Jeffers hit right-handed, meaning it won't be a true catching platoon, as the Twins have done in the past with Mitch Garver working alongside Jason Castro and Alex Avila. But with Jeffers still seeking offensive consistency, Minnesota has been open about wanting another catcher to split time following the departures of Gary Sánchez and Sandy León to free agency.
Vázquez has been lauded for his preparation behind the plate and his likability in the clubhouse, and he'll join a trio of fellow Puerto Ricans -- Jose Miranda, Jorge López and Jovani Moran -- on a Twins roster that will lean on significant contributions from young Latin-American pitchers like Jhoan Duran and Jorge Alcala.
Vázquez graded out as an average pitch framer, ranked in MLB's 55th percentile last season, but he was worth 11 defensive runs saved, tied with J.T. Realmuto for fourth-best among catchers. He also brings a top-five quickness in his exchange when throwing out runners, which helped him rank in MLB's 71st percentile in pop time last season.
The clubhouse presence and preparation will be what the Twins pay for across the next three seasons, as Vázquez has been a solid but unspectacular hitter throughout his career, with a .695 OPS across 2,633 plate appearances. His best season, by far, was in 2019, when he crushed 23 homers in 138 games, but that's the only year in which he reached double digits.
This move leaves shortstop as the only glaring hole on the Twins' roster, though there are still plenty of paths forward for them to pursue impact additions, perhaps through front-line pitchers or right-handed hitters.
Even with Vázquez in the mix, they still have plenty of payroll flexibility to continue free-agent pursuits on a fast-moving market, and areas of depth from which to trade on their Major League roster, if needed, though their farm system remains comparatively depleted due to their frenzy of trade acquisitions in the last year.