The Oakland A’s are seemingly set at the catcher position, but adding a veteran backstop in free agency could make sense.
In theory, the Oakland A’s catching situation is pretty well set. Sean Murphy lived up to his status as one of the top catching prospects in the game and led the A’s with a 131 OPS+. Jonah Heim and Austin Allen had their moments, with one of that duo expected to maintain the backup role for next season.
However, neither player is exactly a given. Allen has struggled in his 103 plate appearances at the major league level, producing a .208/.262/.292 batting line. He has displayed some pop, with five doubles and a homer, but has also struck out 35 times and has struggled defensively.
Heim, meanwhile, was marginally better. He did not exactly impress with the bat, producing a .211/.268/.211 batting line in his 41 plate appearances, but he shined defensively. Despite having just 95 innings behind the plate, he saved two runs and threw out three of the five would be basestealers he had.
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As it stands, Heim is considered to be the favorite for the backup catcher role once the 2021 regular season gets underway. But that is still months from now, and a lot can change. One possible option that could work out for the A’s without breaking the bank would be to add a veteran backup.
Signing a catcher along the lines of a Sandy Leon could be an option. Not only is Leon an excellent defensive catcher, but he has a reputation for being able to bring out the best in a pitching staff. He could also be signed to a minor league deal, serving as a mentor during spring training and potentially in AAA to help guide the A’s young catchers on the finer points of the position.
Such a move could reap other benefits as well. Aside from Chris Bassitt, the A’s rotation struggled with consistency in 2020. Bringing in a veteran catcher, especially one with a strong defensive reputation, could help the younger options with their preparation as they learn how to guide a pitcher who may not have their best stuff on a given night.
A veteran catcher may not be a pressing need for the Oakland A’s. However, at relatively little cost, bringing one in could have a major impact in 2021 and beyond.