A little over three weeks ago, the Brewers announced that they had traded Francisco Rodriguez to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for 2B Javier Betancourt and a player to be named later. At that time we speculated that the player to be named probably wouldn't be someone on Detroit's 40 man roster and that we would have to wait until after the Rule 5 Draft was completed to learn his identity.
The 2015 Rule 5 Draft, and the Winter Meetings as a whole, wrapped up earlier today and the Brewers had themselves a busy day. Four players were selected across the major and minor league portions of the Rule 5 Draft, the presumptive third baseman for 2016 was acquired, and finally the Brewers announced that they had completed their deal with the Detroit Tigers.
C Manny Piña has been acquired from Detroit as the player to be named in the Francisco Rodriguez trade. Piña invited to Major League camp.— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) December 10, 2015
Manny Pina, a native of Venezuela, was signed by the Texas Rangers as a 17 year old in 2004. He's had a journeyman's career, spending his first five seasons in the Rangers' organization before bouncing around to the Royals, Mariners, Tigers, and now the Brewers. He appeared in five major league games between 2011-12 with Royals, going 3-14 with two doubles and a walk.
Pina does have a lengthy track record of providing solid production as a backup catcher throughout his 11 year minor career. He's appeared in 730 games (never more than 91 in a season) and has slashed .256/.326/.374 with 50 home runs. He's regarded as a strong defender behind the plate and has thrown out 37% of attempted base stealers throughout his career.
Manny spent all of 2015 with AAA Toledo and enjoyed one of the finest seasons he's had as a professional. In 292 plate appearances, Pina hit .305/.379/.461 with seven home runs and walked (8.2%) nearly as much as he struck out (11.6%). He also threw out 31 of the 68 baserunners that attempted to steal on him. Dave Owen, the Tigers' Director of Player Development, offered this praise for Pina:
"He's a very good catcher - he's a catch and throw guy - so the bat coming along at the end of the season, it was nice to see. You just never know when things might click. He got with Leon Dunham, the hitting coach there in Toledo, and maybe they figured something out. It worked, so hopefully it continues for Manny."
The Brewers cut ties with Nevin Ashley and Juan Centeno, their two main AAA catchers from 2015, shortly after the season ended. With the additions of Rene Garcia and now Manny Pina, as well as the presence of 2011 34th rounder Adam Weisenburger, the club has now replaced that depth without taking up any 40 man roster spots.
Rumors continue to persist about the availability of star catcher Jonathan Lucroy on the trade market and the possibility still remains that he could be moved before 2016 begins. In the case that he is eventually dealt (and the Texas Rangers reportedly "covet" him), Pina and Garcia both have invitations to major league camp next spring and could compete for the backup catcher spot behind Martin Maldonado. Perhaps the fact that Slingin' David Stearns chose to bring in a veteran catcher with major league experience (limited as it may be) from what was likely a varied list of potential PTBNL in the K-Rod deal to Detroit could signal that something else much larger is in the works.