The Detroit Tigers made a major shakeup to their catcher room on Saturday, designating Eric Haase for assignment and signing former D'backs catcher Carson Kelly, who will have a club option for the 2024 season.
There has been some chatter amongst Tigers fans for some time now about the future of the catcher position. With Haase now out of the picture, the Tigers don't have much catching depth outside of Jake Rogers. Thankfully, he's emerged as a very solid option this season.
In addtion to being a borderline elite framer and defender behind the plate, Rogers has 15 home runs and a 96 wRC+ on the year. The wRC+ was over 100 earlier in the season, but his walk rate has dipped over the past month or so. However, he's still hitting for a good amount of power, as evidenced by that .229 ISO.
He's worth 2.0 fWAR on the season, which is second on the team only to Riley Greene and 10th among MLB catchers with at least 250 plate appearances. He's not a free agent until 2027, so the Tigers still have him for a while.
But behind him, there really isn't much in the organization. It's highly unlikey that Kelly ends up being a long term piece. Some of the catchers that Scott Harris brought into the organization in the offseason, such as Michael Papierski, Andrew Knapp, and Donny Sands, haven't worked out. So what else is there?
The first name that comes to mind is Dillon Dingler, a second-round pick in 2020. He was recently promoted to Triple-A...after spending about two years in Double-A. Injuries have played a factor, but he was pretty pedestrian with the bat in Erie. He strikes out a ton. He's probably a backup at best.
Josh Crouch had a nice season last year, but has regressed massively in 2023. He's looking like a flash in the pan. They did draft a couple catchers in last month's draft, but they're years away from the big leagues.
So there's not much, if anything, in the organization. As good as Jake Rogers has been, he could use a quality backup behind him, so we have to look outside the organization.
When looking at the upcoming free agent class, the first name thats pops out is Mitch Garver. He's much more of an offensive-minded catcher. He has a 148 wRC+ in 191 plate appearances with the Rangers this year. With the emergence of Jonah Heim, Texas doesn't really need him.
Given Garver's injury history, having him serve as Rogers' backup would be a good way to ensure he stays healthy. He'd be my personal top choice.
Yasmani Grandal will be a free agent as well, but he's battled injuries as well and the bat just hasn't been the same the last two years. I'd avoid him if I can.
Outside of those two and a couple of club option candidates, there really isn't much in free agency. There aren't a ton of options in the trade market either, at least not as of this writing. Harris might have to get creative if he wants to add a catcher this offseason.
Jake Rogers is good, but the catching depth in the Tigers system in thin to say the least. With Haase gone, and Kelly likely not here for very long, catcher has jumped up the list of needs for the Detroit Tigers this offseason.