The SF Giants will enter the 2024 season with Patrick Bailey as the Opening Day catcher. Who backs him up will be another story and could be one area they look to upgrade this offseason.
One area on the SF Giants roster that quietly needs to be upgraded
The other backup catchers on the 40-man roster include Blake Sabol and Joey Bart. Bart will enter next season without any minor league options remaining, whereas Sabol can be optioned after spending all of the 2023 season on the active roster.
The Giants could look to move Bart before spring training. If they do not trade him, they run the risk of losing him on waivers if he does not make the club out of camp.
The position-player market in free agency is light, but it does have some quality backup catcher options. Perhaps, Mitch Garver and Gary Sánchez
are the only starting-caliber options, and few others, if any, besides those two are going to command more than a one-year deal. I mention this because the cost is not going to be exorbitant by any means and the Giants should invest in a quality backstop. It does not have to be a top priority, but one that should be addressed later in the offseason.
There is little doubt that Bailey will be the starting catcher going forward. That said, the rookie catcher wore down toward the end of the year. The bat slumped as he finished the year with a .644 OPS and even his defense took a step back in the final month of the year.
Bailey admitted that he was battling fatigue after appearing in 125 games split between the majors and minors in 2023. This was the highest total yet as a pro, surpassing his previous career-high of 83 games in 2022.
The 24-year-old flashed Gold Glove-caliber defense when he was not dealing with fatigue. His pitch-framing and rapid release proved to be huge assets for the Giants. And, for those to remain assets through a long season, it would behoove the Giants to look for reliable backup catchers.
Garver would be the best option on the market in a catcher/DH role. Though, it is likely that he wants more playing time behind the dish than the Giants can offer. Sánchez had a quality season for the San Diego Padres and likely netted a multi-year deal as a result of that.
It is possible that Victor Caratini will receive a two-year deal in free agency as a backup catcher. The average annual value would be on the lower side, but he adds plenty of experience and has a reputation for good work with pitchers.
Similarly, Yasmani Grandal fits that description of a veteran catcher who could not only help a pitcher staff but also serve as a mentor to a younger catcher like Bailey. Grandal, like Bailey and Caratini, is a switch hitter and he has seen his defensive numbers decline in recent seasons, including a .647 OPS in 2023. That said, he continues to be a tough out as he has recorded a 14.1 percent walk rate throughout his career.
Caratini and Grandal fit the description of backup catchers who would not cut into Bailey's playing time but could assume a larger workload if Bailey hit the injured list. Austin Hedges and Jacob Stallings are a couple more options of catchers who have a solid reputation behind the dish, but the bat lags far behind.
You are not going to get a well-rounded catcher to serve as a backup, so it is a matter of finding desirable traits. I think the Giants want to avoid having a situation where Blake Sabol has to handle a heavier workload for one reason or another given that he is still learning the position. It would not be a bad thing for the lefty bat to spend some time in Triple-A next season to do so.
There are a lot of ways for the Giants to improve next year's roster. Backup catcher is not the first priority that comes to mind, but there is a way for the Giants to find a marginal upgrade with experience in free agency.