The San Francisco Giants surprised a few people on Sunday morning with a move for an obvious back-up catcher to Buster Posey. They acquired Erik Kratz in exchange for middle infield prospect, C.J. Hinojosa. Why?
We had a whole 24 hours worth of thinking the San Francisco Giants were going to keep Aramis Garcia on the 25 man roster to start the season. Now, that seems out of the question, again.
A few weeks after many anointed Rene Rivera the obvious backup catcher, his performances were bad enough that the Giants decided not to retain him. His release, coupled with Garcia’s good spring at the plate certainly had many Giants fans thinking that they would end up keeping him on the roster. But now, Erik Kratz has jumped into the picture.
Robert Murray of The Athletic broke news that the Giants had swapped out minor league infielder, C.J. Hinojosa for the 38 year old Erik Kratz, a cult postseason hero for the Brewers last year. Kratz posted a 0.1 WAR last year, which obviously has plenty of Giants fans concerned. His numbers at the plate were definitely not good, especially compared to what Aramis Garcia and Nick Hundley had been able to put up. But before we get all up in arms, about how bad Kratz is at the plate, let’s take a look at the big picture here.
Yes, Kratz is bad at the plate, and closer to 50 than he is 20. Hinojosa is a young infield prospect. Let’s get two things clear though:
- Hinojosa would likely never see the Big League Roster in San Francisco.
- Kratz is a top end defensive catcher, and pitch framer
A simple rebuttal is that “why would the Brewers want to get rid of him then if he’s so good there?” Well, the Brewers just signed the number one guy in that department (Grandal), and Manny Piña is a solid backup defensively, with a solid knack for hitting. He’s been their first choice for a while, and will now become a good second choice.
I saw a few complaints about the Giants giving up Hinojosa as well which prompted the first point above. Hinojosa hit above an .800 OPS just once in his minor league career, and has yet to come close to even .750 since, even when he got popped with a 50 game suspension for Drug of Abuse. He’s played all over the infield and isn’t handy enough with the glove to overlook his lack of ability at the plate. A change of scenery might do him some good. But he’s not even remotely in the Abiatal Avelino conversation, so to think of him as “in the picture” with the Giants would’ve been laughable.
Finally, we come to the point of Kratz vs. Aramis. As much as I loved what I’ve seen from Aramis, he’s still a young catcher who needs to be playing every-day to improve his main weakness, which is his ability behind the plate. He’s got a good arm, but really needs to work on the receiving end of things.
Throw in the fact that they’ve got Joey Bart in the picture potentially even later this year, the San Francisco Giants should view Aramis as a luxury. And if they can have him add some positional versatility down in Sacramento, on top of hone his craft as the top catcher down in Sacramento, it’s better for them, and Aramis. Kratz being in the picture allows them that luxury.
So let’s not shoot down the idea of Kratz being on the roster so soon. He’s going to be very good for the pitchers to work with. Think of someone like Eli Whiteside, or Chris Stewart. Both of those guys were arguably the best backup catchers the Giants had when it came to working with the pitchers, and neither of them hit for much. So