Seemingly now more than ever, top-tier catchers are at a premium. On that note, I'm going to tell you about a great 2023 Dynasty Baseball Trade Target: Alejandro Kirk.
Only one catcher (Phillies perennial All-Star J.T. Realmuto) had a Wins Above Replacement of four or above. Only two other catchers were worth over 3.5 wins. Former Cubs backstop and current Free Agent Willson Contreras, and current Blue Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk. While the Cubs failed to move Contreras at this past year's deadline, the 2022 AL Silver Slugger Kirk could be an up-and-coming name who may be shopped around in the offseason.
After appearing in nine games in 2020, Kirk had a mediocre and injury mired 2021 rookie campaign, posting a league average OPS+ at 105 and hitting .242 with eight homers across 60 games.
However, Kirk enjoyed a breakout season in 2022, with a triple slash of .285/.372./415, an OPS+ of 126. Kirk also swatted 14 homers and was selected to his first All-Star Game in 2022, where he was nominated as the starting backstop for the AL squad in his first full season as the Blue Jays' starting catcher.
This impressive season was rounded out with Kirk taking home the AL Silver Slugger award for catchers. However, Kirk is being looked at as a potential trade target by a few catcher-needy teams.
The #BlueJays are expected to trade a catcher this offseason, according to multiple rival execs I’ve spoken with at the GM Meetings. The Jays have an abundance of talent at the position: Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk and Gabriel Moreno. @MLBNetwork @MLB
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 8, 2022
2023 Dynasty Baseball Trade Target: Alejandro Kirk
The Case for Trading Kirk
With Kirk seemingly hitting his stride this past season, it would make sense for the Blue Jays to keep their catcher, who recently turned 24 and won't be a free agent until the 2027 season. However, the factors that aided his leap from a league-average catcher in 2021 to an All-Star in 2022 are likely unsustainable.
Kirk's batting average on balls in play (BABIP) rose from .234 in 2021 to .299 in 2022. The league average for this stat is .300, which means that Kirk was either very unlucky in 2021, with his balls in play simply being hit directly at fielders more than others, or that Kirk got lucky in 2022, getting hits that should have been caught, falling in the right spot.
Usually, the best indicator of BABIP is a player's hard-hit rate. Kirk's hard-hit rate was around league average in both years but actually fell from 2021 to 2022 (46.9% to 45.5%).
The next year or two will give a larger sample size and determine on whether Kirk was unlucky in 2021 or lucky in 2022, but Kirk's improved batting average from .242 to .285 while making solid contact less frequently is suspicious. Kirk's award-laden 2022 season may have catapulted his trade value to the highest it ever will be, leading the Blue Jays to shop Kirk around this offseason.
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) November 10, 2022
Even if 2022 is a solid indicator of how Kirk will perform, he might not even be the best catcher on his own team. Phenom catcher Gabriel Moreno was ranked as the top prospect in all of baseball before making his debut in the middle of 2022, where he hit .319 across 25 games.
With a hot start and loads of hype under Moreno's belt, the Blue Jays might work Moreno in as the 2023 starter and look to trade Kirk, who is 24 and on a team-friendly contract could fetch the Blue Jays a few solid contributors.
In his third career MLB game, Blue Jays top prospect Gabriel Moreno picks up a 3-hit night!
— Farm To Fame (@FarmToFame_) June 15, 2022
The Case Against Trading Kirk
There's a reason why the demand for Kirk will be high if the Blue Jays announce that he is on the trade block. At only 23 years old at last year's All-Star Game, Kirk became the youngest catcher to start an All Star Game since Ivan Rodriguez in 1995.
Even though the aforementioned Moreno is a top prospect and plays the same position as Kirk, the Blue Jays may not be smart to trade Kirk just yet. For starters, both catchers are the same age, and it is Kirk who has established himself as an everyday MLB player. Moreno's potential is through the roof, but how many times have we seen a top prospect not work out? It might be smarter to keep the proven Kirk and trade Moreno.
Kirk's contract entices teams that would trade for him, as he is on a team-friendly contract until 2027. This same contract is golden for the Blue Jays, who again would keep their young All-Star catcher for another 4 years.
Who Would Trade for Kirk?
The obvious answer has to be the Cardinals. The catcher for the Cardinals was locked down by future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina for the last decade and a half, but Molina's retirement has left the Cardinals without a quality backstop. Additionally, the Cardinals have many young prospects and younger players at the MLB level who they could send back to the Jays in a trade.
While trading Kirk to the Cardinals won't get the Jays a top prospect like Masyn Winn or Jordan Walker, a top 10 prospect or a young MLB player (Lars Nootbaar comes to mind) could be the return. Kirk may not be prime Yadi Molina, but Kirk would add a quality bat and solid defense to a team who currently doesn't have an MLB-ready catcher.
A few Cardinals thoughts. Could STL trade Gorman and/or Liberatore and/or McGreevy and/or Burleson in a 2-3 team+ trade to get to a catcher such as Sean Murphy or Alejandro Kirk or go free agent market? GM Girsch mentioned they aren’t afraid to trade prospects. #STLCards
— Cardinals Baseball ⚾️ (@scout_stl) November 11, 2022
Another team who could use Kirk's services is the Twins. While Gary Sanchez is one of the best offensive catchers in the league, his value is dragged down by his abysmal defense. He is frequently finishing at the bottom of the league in framing metrics and among the league leaders in passed balls.
At this stage in his career, Sanchez likely won't improve on the defensive end. This should lead the Twins to make Sanchez the everyday DH or even first baseman, creating a need for a catcher who is valuable on both sides of the ball like Kirk.
Dynasty Baseball Trade Target
Why should you trade for Kirk in your dynasty league? As mentioned above, Kirk just turned 24, meaning he still has lots of room to grow into an even better backstop.
Kirk likely hasn't even hit his prime yet and is already arguably a top 3-5 catcher in the MLB. No matter what size your league is, Kirk should have a spot as an everyday catcher on fantasy squads not only for this upcoming season, but for the foreseeable future as well.
Entering his third full season, Kirk still has room to grow in the power department. He belted 14 homers last year, but fantasy players can reasonably expect positive regression, with Kirk likely challenging 20 homers a season for the next few years.
Kirk's already established top-tier on-base ability and discipline (he walked more than he struck out in 2022) has catapulted him into a reliable fantasy starter at catcher. If Kirk is able to add to his power numbers, fantasy managers will see a very solid return on their trades for him.
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