Devasting news for Detroit Tigers catcher Jake Rogers as the backstop will be out for a significant period of time.
Wednesday’s news of Detroit Tigers catcher Jake Rogers going under the knife for Tommy John Surgery was disheartening to be sure but probably not shocking. Rogers had been out for some time with an arm ailment and not much positive news was leaking out.
It would seem GM Al Avila’s shopping list may have added a new box to get checked off for his winter shopping.
Rogers had been making solid progress in ‘21 toward becoming a team fixture. Defensively he looked significantly more comfortable behind the plate with only three passed balls in 310 innings after coughing up nine in 302 innings in ‘19. Rogers was throwing out 57% of base stealers to start the season (league average is 24%).
Offensively Rogers had been providing the always appreciated “timely” hits and was off to a good start with a 120 OPS+. While his 36% K-Rate is high and might always be fairly elevated, Rogers had already banged out 14 extra-base hits in 127 plate appearances.
To put it succinctly, Rogers was earning his playing time and potentially a role in the club’s future.
The Tigers do have Eric Haase of course. The Cinderella of the Ball in the first half of the season. Haase smacked 13 homers prior to the All-Star Break. Haase’s surge has cooled down considerably in the second half. He’s batting just over .200 since August 1st.
Haase also has a massive platoon split with a .969 OPS against lefties that craters to .670 versus righties. Haase runs well and has shown he can competently play left-field at times. He has the look of a useful backup with good power on occasion. He’s throwing out 33% of runners as well. It’s a platoon profile, to say the least.
Waiting for 2023
If the Tigers harbor hopes of contending for a playoff berth in ‘22 there seems little doubt they need to re-tool their offense which is all too often on the short end of a 3-1 or 4-2 score.
The catcher position isn’t exactly laden with offensive forces this coming winter, however, the Tigers may want a short-term fix to pair with Haase while waiting on Rogers to return in 2023.
Who can be had in ‘22?
If the Tigers want a platoon catcher to pair with Haase the first player who could really add some offense to the lineup is Tucker Barnhart of the Cincinnati Reds. Barnhart is a fine offensive catcher who hits lefty. He’s slashing a very solid .266/.342/.405 against right-handed pitching and he’s not helpless against lefties should Haase turn back into a pumpkin next year. Barnhart could handle full-time duties if it came to that.
Barnhart is wrapping up a 4-year/$16M deal this season. He has a club option for ‘22 with the Reds for $7.5M (with a $500K buyout). The emergence of Tyler Stephenson behind the plate for the Reds could easily sway the club into a cheap buyout and finding Stephenson a much cheaper backup. Barnhart could hit the market. The question is how many multi-year offers might his agent find? Would the Tigers commit long-term to eventually pair him with Rogers?
Travis d’Arnaud was scheduled to hit free agency this winter before signing an extension in late August.
Another vet slated to be on the market is Yan Gomes. The “have catcher’s mitt…will travel” guy has bounced around a bit in his career. But he’s shown once again this year he can chip in offensively. The problem is his platoon split is large as well and too similar to Haase’s. Gomes could be a fine enough stopgap but it seems others might be a better fit.
Much can be said about All-Star Mike Zunino if he leaves Tampa Bay. Zunino has a club option with the Rays. But it’s the Rays…they don’t operate out of fear. If they believe Francisco Mejia is ready to play every day it’s not a reach to see them let Zunino test the market and save themselves the cash.
Certainly, the Tigers could acquire a catcher in a trade this off-season. Or they could find a defensive specialist on the dirt cheap to get them by.
Grayson Greiner is possibly an option no matter how many fans would be livid at the prospect. The Tigers don’t have many other real internal options until when and if former 2nd round pick Dillon Dingler is ready and that doesn’t seem imminent.
Rogers looked good but he’s still a bit away from being called a solution. Haase might have just had his career year. He can be useful but you don’t stop hunting for upgrades because of Eric Haase (or Jake Rogers).
The Detroit Tigers have made rumblings that spending could be in store this winter. They need bats anywhere they can find them. They especially need a Shortstop if it becomes convenient. Will the Tigers find a salary slot for a new catcher as well.
Barnhart and d’Arnaud seem like very solid targets for the Tigers off-season. Both have needed bat skills but also have no history of needing a back-breaking deal. Either of these two would add a sprinkle of offense to a lineup that could desperately use some lengthening.
Where will Al Avila strike?