Detroit Tigers: Veterans to battle for backup catcher role

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 17: Brayan Pena
DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 17: Brayan Pena /
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ST. PETERSBURG, FL – JUNE 8: Catcher Derek Norris
ST. PETERSBURG, FL – JUNE 8: Catcher Derek Norris /

Derek Norris

The Tigers signed Norris to a minor league deal back in December. Even though he is just 28, he has considerably more experience in the big leagues than fellow 28-year-old Hicks.

Norris was originally drafted by the Washington Nationals in the fourth round of the 2007 draft. He was traded to the Oakland A’s in a prospect package for Gio Gonzalez.

He made his big league debut in 2012, hitting .201 with seven home runs in 209 at-bats. Norris put together a strong half season in 2013 before breaking out in 2014.

That season, Norris made his first (and only) All-Star game. He finished the year hitting .270/.361/.403 with 10 home runs and a 123 wRC+.

His numbers have rapidly declined since then, culminating in an ugly .201/.258/.380 line in 2017 with the Rays. All told Norris has hit .230 for his career with 63 home runs in 680 games.

He was suspended under baseball’s new domestic violence policy for the last month of the 2017 season. He became the fifth player to face punishment under the policy.

Norris comes with considerable baggage, and his performance on the field does not merit him winning the job over Hicks or Pena.

However, he has seen success at the major league level. And at just 28 years old, the Tigers are willing to take a chance on him. If he can regain some of what made him so successful a few years ago the Tigers will have found a gem in the bargain bin. If not, he can just serve as depth at Triple-A or be released, costing the Tigers next to nothing.

Next: A look at the 2018 Infield

James McCann will do the vast majority of the catching next season. However, the more depth you have behind the plate the better. Hicks, Pena and Norris all provide experience behind the dish and should make a solid catching core while Rogers and Greiner continue to develop in the minors.