Detroit Tigers Free Agent Signing: Catcher Dustin Garneau

Jul 4, 2020; Houston, Texas, United States; Houston Astros catcher Dustin Garneau (13) during team workouts at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 4, 2020; Houston, Texas, United States; Houston Astros catcher Dustin Garneau (13) during team workouts at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /
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All you need to know about potential Detroit Tigers catcher Dustin Garneau.

To be honest, when the Detroit Tigers signed catcher Dustin Garneau just before Christmas we didn’t think it was particularly newsworthy. These sorts of signings happen just about every year as teams look to add catching depth for spring training.

But subsequent events make it seem more likely Garneau will break camp with the Tigers. First, the team designated Eric Haase for assignment when they signed José Ureña, leaving Grayson Greiner and Jake Rogers as the only catchers on Detroit’s 40-man roster. The Haase DFA came the same day as the Dustin Garneau signing, so it’s probably safe to assume he’s now third in the catcher pecking order now.

On Monday afternoon Jon Heyman tweeted a few more details about the Dustin Garneau signing:

Again, that sort of thing isn’t uncommon. Back in 2019 Mark Feinsand tweeted the details of the Zack Godley signing:

Godley didn’t stick with the Tigers, of course, and there’s certainly a chance Dustin Garneau won’t either. But with the recent Robbie Grossman signing, it seems possible Detroit may feel like they have bigger needs than a veteran catcher.

So let’s dig into Dustin Garneau a bit more and learn about one of Detroit’s potential catchers in 2021.

Who is Dustin Garneau?

Dustin Garneau was originally selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 19th round of the 2009 draft after four years at Cal-State Fullerton. He hit just .262/.388/.410 in college, so he clearly wasn’t drafted for his bat.

He never made any prospect lists, but Dustin Garneau slowly and steadily made his way through Colorado’s system. At times he showed some useful power (17 home runs in Low-A, 13 in Double-A, and 15 in Triple-A), and he made his MLB debut in August 2015, a week after his 28th birthday. He doubled in his first two games, and hit his first big-league homer on September 9th.

Garneau spent parts of three seasons in Colorado, playing 68 games total, but was then claimed on waivers by Oakland. After 19 games with the A’s he was claimed by the White Sox. Garneau played exactly one game for Chicago before being granted free agency.

Dustin Garneau was then signed by the Los Angeles Angels, where he hit .232/.346/.362 with 2 home runs over 28 games. In L.A. he caught the Angels’ emotional combined no-hitter after the death of Tyler Skaggs.

Garneau was waived by the Angels a few weeks later, and once again joined the Oakland A’s for a handful of games. He signed with the Houston Astros for the 2020 season and saw action in 17 games, hitting .158/.273/.289. In all, Dustin Garneau owns a career .202/.288/.338 slash line in 140 career games.

Dustin Garneau Scouting Report

Dustin Garneau is not without talent. His career walk rate (9.6%) and Isolated Power (.136) are decent enough, albeit in a small sample, but he simply hasn’t shown the ability to make consistent contact at the big-league level.

But again, Garneau was never expected to hit much. He has stuck in pro ball because of his defense and ability to work with pitchers. He has been a fairly average defender in his career, with a 33% caught stealing rate (though he was just 3-for-17 last year) and average framing grades the last four seasons.

Garneau does have a fan in his former coach with the Colorado Rockies, Jerry Weinstein, who is one of the best Twitter follows if you’re into catcher defense.

Garneau shows slightly above-average pop times, and he was among baseball’s best last year at stealing extra strikes on either side of the plate.

Dustin Garneau is a poor hitter and a pretty average defender, but right now it looks like he has a chance to break camp with the Tigers. The prospect of a 34-year-old journeyman catching games in Detroit isn’t terribly exciting, so we’ll see if the team decides to add another player. If they do, be sure to check back in with us for another report.

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