You’re reading the 2018 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at the season had by every player to play for the Rockies in 2018. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the least amount of rWAR and end up with the player with the most.
★ ★ ★
No. 27, Drew Butera (0.0 rWAR)
In 2018, Drew Butera had his worst season in seven years. Then he was traded to the Rockies.
Butera is a career backup catcher. His career high is 254 plate appearances in his sophomore season back in 2011 with the Twins. That year, franchise icon Joe Mauer battled injuries and so Butera became the primary catcher, posting a 19 wRC+ and a -1.6 rWAR. In 2014 he had 192 PA with the Dodgers (61 wRC+) and 177 last year with the Royals (60 wRC+).
Maybe he’s an excellent defender, one would be expected to wonder. Alas, he’s been at or above average twice since his rookie year, according to Baseball Prospectus’ Fielding Runs Above Average, which incorporates framing, blocking, and throwing for catchers. His best year, 6.6 FRAA, came in 2014 with the Dodgers.
This year, he caught 14 of the first 20 games for the Royals while they waited for Salvador Perez to recover from injury. In 52 games he had 166 PA with .188/.259/.289 with 28 hits and 37 strikeouts, -6.0 FRAA, good for a 49 wRC+.
All that’s to say: Drew Butera hasn’t been anything more than a mediocre back-up catcher. And yet, the Rockies traded for him just before the waiver trade deadline on August 31 in exchange for Jerry Vasto and cash.
Overall, Butera didn’t do much in his six weeks with the Rockies. He had three hits in 16 plate appearances. His lone extra base hit was a two-run home run in the eighth inning of what became a 14-0 Rockies win. His only appearance in the postseason came in the Wild Card Game, entering the game at catcher in the bottom of seventh. He caught five innings, went 0-for-2 with a walk, allowed a wild pitch and a catcher’s interference.
It would be easy for The Drew Butera Experience with the Rockies to be reduced to a historical footnote fans use to test each other 10 years from now on how well they remember the 2018 playoff teams. But that wouldn’t do justice to the question of why he was on this roster in the first place.
Our own Renee Dechart found three possible reasons why the Rockies went out of their way to acquire Drew Butera. (1) They needed another back-up catcher, (2) sticking to the roster in place without being reactionary, and (3) the value of experience.
Heck, those reasons are even plausible! Both Tom Murphy and Tony Wolters had fallen out of favor due to lack of performance, and Jeff Bridich did not want to make a big change, but he did want experience. Unfortunately, the Rockies didn’t have a lot of options, especially since it was the August 31 trade deadline.
The reasoning for adding a catcher wasn’t flawed. It still doesn’t answer the question why the Rockies spent limited resources, even though the cost wasn’t high, on a player with a career 51 wRC+ and -11.5 FRAA. “Postseason experience” isn’t a great answers, as Butera had only appeared in three postseason games and had two at bats prior to this season. He’s pitched more regular season games than he’s caught postseason games.
Of course, we’re talking about a player who appeared in 11 games with 19 plate appearances, including playoffs, and finished with 0.0 rWAR for the Rockies; the technical term here is “nothingburger.” Butera is a free agent after this season and has a solid chance of catching on with someone this offseason for a back-up role, but almost certainly not with the Rockies.
Just as quickly as he came, he’s gone. The only thing that will remain are the questions of why he was here in the first place.