As expected, the San Francisco Giants have designated catcher Erik Kratz for assignment.
With Buster Posey slated to come off the concussion list, the Giants were looking at four catchers on the active roster, in addition to adding outfielder Aaron Altherr, claimed off waivers from the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday. There was a clear roster crunch, and the 38-year old Kratz, hitting .125 on the season, fell victim to the math.
Kratz, 38, on his 13th big league team, was re-activated from the 10-day injured list on May 11, and Posey, placed on the concussion list on May 9, is eligible to come off the list on May 16.
San Francisco recalled catcher Stephen Vogt on May 1, and since he’s been with the club, he’s gone 7-for-20 (.350). Able to play left field and first base, the 36-year old former two-time All-Star is more versatile than Kratz. The fourth catcher in the mix is 26-year old Aramis Garcia, who played in 19 games in his first big league action last season. In Saturday’s 5-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, Garcia pinch hit for Kratz in the ninth, after Kratz had come in for Vogt in the seventh. Kratz did not get a plate appearance. He had a rough go of things behind the plate in Sunday’s game, with a stolen base and a catcher’s interference call, and his defense had declined from last year. He caught 13 of 44 would-be base stealers in 2018, and only two of nine this year, with two passed balls in 88 innings, compared to four in 491 2/3 last year. He also has a career-worst .964 fielding percentage.
Garcia last year shared a locker space with Posey, and while top prospect Joey Bart waits in the wings, Garcia and Vogt are the more attractive short-term options, and would perform to a level that would entice better organizational pieces should San Francisco want to flip them at or near the trade deadline. Garcia is also more valuable for president of baseball operatiosn Farhan Zaidi because he has minor league options left. One of the things Zaidi has said repeatedly is that he wants more optionable players available to move up and down as the big league club needs. To get Kratz off the 25-man roster, Kratz would have to stay on the big league roster unless he accepted a minor league assignment, which at this point in his career, is not likely. Garcia is more easily moveable.
The more immediate concern was the addition of Altherr to the 25-man roster, the main reason Kratz was designated for assignment.
The speedy outfielder has played in 22 games so far for the Phillies, but hasn’t played since May 3. Since April 23, he’s had just six plate appearances. He’s 1-for-29 this season, but Kevin Pillar was 1-for-16 before being acquired from Toronto, and has proven to be an important piece thus far, driving in 20 runs in 33 games. Altherr will be the fourth outfielder, said manager Bruce Bochy.
“Good athlete that became available,” Bochy said. “He’s a kid with some good skills, a high ceiling … He’s had some struggles, but you like what’s in there … He hasn’t played in a while, so we’ve got to give him a little bit of time and some batting practice.”
While Altherr has struggled this season, in 412 plate appearnces in 2017, he hit .272 with eight home 19 home runs and 65 RBIs, and is someong the Giants have had their eye on for quite some time. He can play all three outfield spots, but would likely stay more in the corners, Bochy said.