The Tigers have only made two notable moves so far this offseason: trading for Brewers left fielder Mark Canha, and picking up catcher Carson Kelly's one year, $3.5 million contract. It wasn't exactly unexpected, given that it would be unwise to start the season with just one catcher, but it does present a question: Which of them, Kelly or his counterpart Jake Rogers, will be the backup? Rogers made the most appearances at backstop in 2023 with 99, while Eric Haase had 57, and Kelly, a late-season addition, had 16.
FanGraphs predicts that Rogers will be the Tigers starting catcher 54% of the time and Kelly will perform in the role 37% of the time, which is similar to the split between Rogers and Haase last year. Offensively, Rogers performed better over more plate appearances, and even introduced some sneaky power with 21 home runs on the year. He's also the better catcher, as he's in the 90th percentile for blocks above average and the 80th in framing, as opposed to Kelly's 61st and 43rd.
It might seem, then, that Rogers has catching on Opening Day pretty much locked up, but the contract numbers might suggest otherwise. Rogers is arbitration-eligible and expected to make $3 million this year, while Kelly will be making $3.5 million. While it might be fiscally understandable for the Tigers to get the most out of their larger investment in Kelly by making him their lead catcher, it wouldn't be the best thing for the team. Rogers' numbers are just better on both sides of the plate, and he's had more time to work with Detroit's pitching staff.