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SF Giants and the Emerging Catching Conundrum

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 13: Buster Posey #28 of the San Francisco Giants hits an RBI single during the sixth inning against the Miami Marlins at Oracle Park on September 13, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 13: Buster Posey #28 of the San Francisco Giants hits an RBI single during the sixth inning against the Miami Marlins at Oracle Park on September 13, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
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SF Giants, Joey Bart
Joey Bart #21 of the SF Giants bats against the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park on September 27, 2020. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

The SF Giants have a good problem to have with Buster Posey returning and prospect Joey Bart waiting in the wings. Still, it poses a conundrum for the backup job.

After non-tendering catcher Chadwick Tromp, the SF Giants only have two catchers on the 40-man roster: Buster Posey and Joey Bart. While both could be everyday starters next season, it creates an obvious conundrum for the backup spot.

The Giants will probably want Bart to start next season in the upper minor leagues to get more at bats, but the Giants are light on catching depth at the upper minor leagues. So who will serve as Posey’s backup?

Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle indicated that the Giants have interest in bringing back Tromp on a minor league deal. The decision to non-tender him had more to do with opening up a 40-man roster spot than how he performed in 2020. However, until that happens, there’s an obvious hole on the depth chart.

Regardless, if the minor league season takes place in 2021, the Giants will need catching depth at the upper minor league ranks. There are more questions than answers at the catching position as the Giants head into next year. As we have seen over the past two years, the Giants front office really likes to have a lot of options at catcher as they head into the season.

For example, when the 2020 Spring Training began, they had Posey, Tromp, Bart, and Tyler Heineman at catcher. Aramis Garcia was on the shelf with a hip injury, but expected to return at some point later in the year.

They added Chris Herrmann to the alternate training site as the season wore on to give them additional depth.

All of these moves show that San Francisco is in an endless pursuit of catching depth. They currently have two catchers on the depth chart in Posey and Bart, but are likely to add several more names before the new season begins.

There are some notable names on the free-agent market such as James McCann and J.T. Realmuto, but they will not be shopping in that aisle.

Instead, they will probably target veteran catchers who can be reeled in on minor league deals or minor leaguers who have been overlooked. Tromp was an example of the latter when he joined with the Giants last winter.

Of the veteran free agent catchers on the market, a couple of names make a lot of sense:

  • Alex Avila 2020 stats: .184/.355/.286 (81 OPS+) line with one home run, two RBI, and a 17.7 percent walk rate against a 35.5 percent strikeout rate.
  • Jason Castro 2020 stats: .188/.293/.375 line (83 OPS+) with two home runs, nine RBI, and a 13 percent walk rate against a 35.9 percent strikeout rate.

Neither one performed particularly well in 2020, but both carry good defensive reputations and each one hits from the left side so they would be natural platoon complements to Posey’s right-handed bat.

The Giants registered a .593 OPS as a team at the catcher position in 2020, so there is plenty of room for improvement and another proven veteran could be good insurance.

If they are willing to take a bit more risk, but maybe find some upside, several minor league catchers could appeal to the Giants as depth options as well:

  • Jamie Ritchie in six MiLB seasons: .281/.402/.395 line with 24 home runs, 200 RBI, and a 15.2 percent walk rate against a 17.6 percent strikeout rate.
  • Jose Godoy in eight MiLB seasons: .274/.362/.356 line with 15 home runs, 196 RBI, and a 10.1 percent walk rate against a 12.8 percent strikeout rate.
  • Jake Lowery in nine MiLB seasons: .223/.331/.372 line 36 home runs, 212 RBI, and 13.8 percent walk rate against a 25.2 percent strikeout rate.

If you are noticing a trend with the five names mentioned above, it is that each one carries the desirable traits of patience and plate discipline that the front office targets. They give you gritty at-bats, can work the count, and coax a walk.

As the Giants prepare for 2021, the catching position has emerged as an area in need of depth after removing Garcia and Tromp from the 40-man roster. With only Bart and Posey remaining, they will bring in several more catchers to compete for playing time in camp.

Given that the organization seems inclined to give Bart more seasoning in Triple-A, it would make sense for the Giants to target a veteran catcher such as Avila or Castro. On top of this, they will probably want to add some more depth at the upper minor league ranks.

Related Story. Hypothetical SF Giants Approach

With the decisions they have made, the SF Giants are currently with an obvious hole at backup catcher. Even if Chadwick Tromp returns, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi will want to bring in some more competition. A veteran like Alex Avila and minor-leaguer Jamie Ritchie could be strong fits.

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