With Stephen Vogt gone, the San Francisco Giants must decide who will be backing up Buster Posey behind the dish to start the 2020 season.
The high-profile free agency departures of Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith have made it easy for San Francisco Giants fans to overlook another exit in the form of Stephen Vogt, who signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In 2019, Vogt was a leader in the clubhouse and he provided some key help with his bat as well. Overall he hit .263/.314/.490 with 10 home runs and 40 RBI even though he was not on the Opening Day roster.
Recall, if you will, that Erik Kratz was the backup catcher coming out of camp. That's a good reminder that whoever the Giants choose to serve as the backup this spring will not necessarily be the backup for the whole year.
It is also worth noting why Vogt played the role that he did last season.
With Buster Posey possibly still dealing with the lingering effects of his hip surgery, and because he struggled offensively for much of the year, Vogt had to step up to provide a little pop to the lineup.
So with Vogt out of the picture, the Giants will need to decide who can play the role that he did last season. As much as we would all like to see Buster recapture some of his old glory, at this stage in his career, that seems unlikely.
The team has a number of in-house options for the backup catcher spot.
There is Aramis Garcia, who has kicked around for a few years and shown he has a little pop in his bat as well as an ability to play first base. Then there are the newer options like the switch-hitting Tyler Heineman or minor leaguer Chadwick Tromp.
Of course, the shadow hanging over this catcher discussion is the arrival of top prospect Joey Bart, which could very well happen at some point in 2020. But until he arrives, let's take a look at the candidates for backup catcher to start the year.
Giants backup catcher candidate: Aramis Garcia
Aramis Garcia is most likely the favorite for the backup job at this point. There is a long way to go, but he has the most familiarity in the locker room and with the pitching staff, which is very important at the catcher position.
Along with that, there is his ability to play first base. With how much Farhan Zaidi prizes versatility, this is surely an asset that he wants on the roster. It could allow him to move Brandon Belt out to left field for some games if he wants to get up to some chicanery.
One issue with Garcia may be a dip in his offensive numbers.
In 2018 he hit .286/.308/.492 in 65 plate appearances at the MLB level, compared to a line of .143/.217/.310 in 46 plate appearances in 2019.
Those are both pretty small sample sizes, but if that trend continues in 2020, then Garcia may not be in the backup role for long.
Giants backup catcher candidate: Tyler Heineman
Tyler Heineman was recently added to the team on a minor league deal. He is a switch-hitter and has been a minor league journeyman for most of his career. However, he did get his first taste of the big leagues with the Miami Marlins last season.
In Triple-A last year, where he spent a majority of his time, he hit .336/.400/.590 with 13 home runs and 38 RBI. That was in the Pacific Coast League, which is notorious for batters tearing the cover off the ball, but nonetheless those are still solid Triple-A numbers.
He will definitely have to outshine Garcia in spring training if he wants to make the big league roster, but in a long season, I would expect to see Heineman get some action in the MLB level at some point.
Giants backup catcher candidate: Chadwick Tromp
The other catcher the Giants just signed is 24-year-old Chadwick Tromp. Last season in Triple-A, he hit .286/.389/.610 with seven home runs and 21 RBI.
Tromp would have to have a Chris Marrero-like (remember him?) spring to make the team, but if he impresses Gabe Kapler, then maybe he could be the next man up in the case of an injury or underperformance from Garcia.
As far as the catcher position as a whole is concerned, I still believe that the biggest storyline in 2020 will end up being the passing of the torch from Buster Posey to Joey Bart.
If Bart stays healthy and keeps hitting the ball the way he did in the Arizona Fall League, then he will definitely be called up at some point during the season.
Depending on how Posey does, Bart could end up getting a majority of the starts behind the dish by the end of the year.
But alas, that is still some time off. The Giants first have to choose a backup for Opening day, and right now, the favorite is Aramis Garcia. That said, a cold spring from him and a hot one from Heineman or Tromp could flip that script pretty fast.