The Baltimore Orioles are still in the market for a reserve catcher.
You would think that after dropping 108 games last season, we would be spending the offseason looking at how the Baltimore Orioles could improve the major league on-field product in 2020, but this offseason is another step in a very long process taking in place in Baltimore to bring this organization back to respectability.
Instead, we have discussed the possibilities of signing injured veteran starting pitchers looking to rebound, minor league pitchers with a slight chance to contribute in the bigs, league-average middle infielders who can play a bit of defense, and a fourth catcher to add to the mix before spring training.
Orioles general manager Mike Elias has discussed his winter shopping list numerous times since the end of the 2019 season, which includes bringing in low-cost pitching options to compete for a rotation spot behind John Means and Alex Cobb, a veteran middle infielder to replace recently traded Jonathan Villar and possibly Richie Martin (if he is sent to the minor leagues for 2020), and a veteran catcher to join Pedro Severino, Chance Sisco, and Austin Wynns.
A reunion with Caleb Joseph has been thrown around a few times by MASN’s Roch Kubatko, with Mike Elias also noting Joseph’s name recently. As a fourth catcher with an option remaining, I wouldn’t mind the opportunity to watch Joseph again in Triple-A with the Norfolk Tides, but an intriguing option recently entered the market.
On Sunday, the Cleveland Indians formally announced their signing of infielder Cesar Hernandez and the designation of catcher Eric Haase for assignment to make room for Hernandez on the 40-man roster.
Entering the 2019 season, Haase was named the best defensive prospect in the Indians system, according to MLB Pipeline, thanks in part to him throwing out 49% of potential base stealers in 2018. Overall, Fangraphs reports aren’t very high on his defensive abilities, but most recent observations all agree that his defense continues to improve behind the plate.
Previously considered a Top 20 prospect within the Indians farm system according to some list makers, Haase brings big strikeout numbers, but also huge home run numbers.
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Spending most of the past two seasons in Triple-A, Haase hit .236 with 20 home runs and a wRC+ of 102 in 2018 and followed that up with a .226/.315/.517 slash line, 28 home runs, a 10.5% walk rate, and a wRC+ of 105 in 2019, all with a strikeout rate north of 30%. The 27-year-old has 130 career minor league home runs in 704 games.
Per MLB Trade Rumors, Haase brings six years of control and a minor league option with him. With Adley Rutschman waiting in the wings, obviously that many years of control isn’t necessary, but he’s a low-cost option with noted defensive abilities behind the plate and big home run totals throughout his minor league career.
Sounds like a solid fourth-option/AAA reserve catcher to me, if the Orioles are able to grab him via a waiver claim in the coming days. Alright, enough talk about a fourth catcher. Have a safe New Year’s Eve tomorrow, Birdland!
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