Oct 24, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Gerald Laird (9) warms up during batting practice before game one of the 2012 World Series against the San Francisco Giants at AT
The Tigers had said that the door was open for Laird to come back, but they weren’t going to offer him more playing time or a larger salary (he made $1 million with the Tigers this past year). Atlanta recently lost backup catcher David Ross to the Boston Red Sox via free agency and were looking for a right-handed hitting catcher to replace him in the platoon with left-handed hitting Brian McCann. The Laird-Braves match seems like a good fit.
The Tigers could perhaps explore cheap options in free agency to back up Alex Avila (assuming the Laird-to-Atlanta deal materializes), but Dave Dombrowski had already stated his comfort with rookie Bryan Holaday should Laird receive a more appealing offer elsewhere. Holaday – the former NCAA Johnny Bench Award winner – appears able to handle big league catching duties defensively, but likely won’t contribute much of anything with his bat.
The Tigers could perhaps squeeze some offensive value out of Holaday if they (more or less) stick to a straight platoon at catcher – giving the right-handed hitting Holaday the start against left-handed pitchers (who Avila is weak against) – but even so, an OPS much north of .600 would be difficult for me to predict.
The only way the decision not to re-pursue Laird comes back to haunt the Tigers is if Alex Avila gets hurt for an extended period of time – not an unlikely proposition – but even so, Laird’s defensive skills appear to be on the decline and his offensive numbers will probably take a step or two back in 2013. The Tigers, who are stretching the payroll to fill real holes on the roster, didn’t want to pay more than they had to for an aging bench player, and I can hardly blame them for that.
[UPDATE:] And now it appears that the deal is indeed done.