The Tigers have brought back Gerald Laird to be their backup catcher for the 2012 season, pending a physical according to MLBTraderumors. Laird returns to Detroit after spending one season with the St. Louis Cardinals, and picking himself up a World Series ring. The Tigers originally acquired Laird from the Texas Rangers before the 2009 season, and gave Laird a chance to be their starting catcher while Alex Avila developed.
Laird, in 2011, barely got over 100 at-bats with the Cardinals last season and hit .232. The Tigers, however, aren’t bringing Gerald Laird back for his offense. He is more than likely going to catch around 40 games for the Tigers next season, mostly against left-handed pitching. Over the course of his career, Laird hits. 263 against lefties, and will provide an experienced, capable, defensive backup to Avila.
The move isn’t a surprising one, and one that we at Motor City Bengals have hinted at several times throughout the off-season. While Tigers fans might not remember Laird fondly, he does fit exactly what they are looking for. He hits right-handed. He can manage a pitching staff, and he can control the run game a little. And heck, who knows, maybe he will run into one once in a while?
Now, this does mean something to the overall roster. It limits the a spot for a guy like Wilson Betemit, who by all intents and purposes now will more than likely not be re-signed by Detroit. I don’t think that was in much doubt, but with Victor Martinez and his old knees being a full time DH, and now the Tigers having a backup catcher on the roster, versatility will be a key for Detroit’s bench players. Ryan Raburn, Andy Dirks, and Don Kelly appear to be the leading candidates at this point. Though that could change with a couple of trades.
Hopefully this is just the beginning of a string of moves the Tigers make to improve their squad this off-season. It may not be the flashiest of moves, but it was necessary to get Avila some more time off throughout the season.