Gerald Laird fills the void left by David Ross. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Braves Sign Gerald Laird

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Ken Rosenthal reports this morning say the Braves have agreed to sign journeyman backup catcher Gerald Laid – Mark Bowman says it’s for two years – financial terms are not yet available. The departure of David Ross and Brian McCann’s surgery mean whoever the Braves sign needs to be capable of catching everyday for a month or more. Lee reviewed catching options on the market after Ross left for Boston but neither he now I thought Laird was a match.

Laird spent last year with the Tigers but after the season was over told the Tigers he was looking for more playing time and more money.  He will play every day until McCann returns but won’t get that much more than a game a week afterwards. How much of a pay bump in pay he gets is relative. He will see more than the $1M he got from Detroit in 2012 but if the Braves were going to pay big for a part time catcher they would have paid Ross his $3.2M. I’d guess somewhere around $1.5 to 1.75M would hit the mark.

Laird’s Bat

The Tigers got one of Laird’s best offensive years in 2012 but that isn’t the norm.  He’s reportedly a good defensive backstop and game caller but who can be expected to put up about a 1.0 rWAR .

Year Tm G PA R HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG ISO
2003 TEX 19 50 9 1 4 5 11 .273 .360 .432 .159
2004 TEX 49 168 20 1 16 12 35 .224 .287 .286 .062
2005 TEX 13 42 7 1 4 2 7 .225 .262 .350 .125
2006 TEX 78 260 46 7 22 12 54 .296 .332 .473 .177
2007 TEX 120 448 48 9 47 30 103 .224 .278 .349 .125
2008 TEX 95 381 54 6 41 23 63 .276 .329 .398 .122
2009 DET 135 477 49 4 33 40 68 .225 .306 .320 .095
2010 DET 89 299 22 5 25 18 57 .207 .263 .304 .097
2011 STL 37 108 11 1 12 9 19 .232 .302 .358 .126
2012 DET 63 191 24 2 11 14 21 .282 .337 .374 .092
10 Yrs 698 2424 290 37 215 165 438 .244 .303 .359 .115
TEX (6 yrs) 374 1349 184 25 134 84 273 .255 .306 .383 .128
DET (3 yrs) 287 967 95 11 69 72 146 .231 .299 .326 .095
STL (1 yr) 37 108 11 1 12 9 19 .232 .302 .358 .126
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/15/2012.

Laird’s platoon splits in 2012 were way outside of his norm so I wouldn’t expect those RHP numbers to repeat and if those LH numbers . . .well . . .

2012 Splits G PA AB SO BA OBP SLG ISO
vs RHP as RHB 39 82 76 9 .382 .420 .408 .036
vs LHP as RHB 43 109 98 12 .204 .275 .347 .143
Career Splits
vs RHP as RHB 582 1660 1500 306 .240 .295 .345 .125
vs LHP as RHB 341 764 677 132 .254 .322 .391 .137
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/15/2012.
His career splits are relatively even but a .295 OBP against RH pitchers is awful.

Defense

Laird is considered a sound defensive catcher. Sabremetrically catching is one of the things no one has yet developed a ways of measuring that covers important things like game calling and managing a staff. Both of those are very subjective in nature of course; you either have it or you don’t. There are metrics for base stealing – rSB is essentially runs saved by throwing out base stealers – and RPP – runs saved by preventing passed balls – but because the pitcher’s ability to hold runners and throw the ball where the target is affect those numbers they aren’t definitive. Just my opinion of course I’m sure someone will disagree. In any event the numbers are added to get a score and scale is a zero = average baseline. The CPP column is the an estimated number of passed balls a catcher should have allowed based on the number of pitches seen. (Not sure that works for a guy catching a knuckleballer not named R. A. Dickey but that’s another discussion.) Herewith the numbers for those stats over the last 4 years along with a scale and a couple of comparables. I inserted PBD as passed ball difference between projected and actual. I also averaged DRS instead of adding it and rounded ADRS to an even number. You decide what it means.

Name Inn rSB ADRS CPP APB PBD RPP rSB, RPP DRS
Gerald Laird 429 -3 -1 21 19 -2 1.2 5 Gold Glove 
Dioner Navarro 155.1 0 0 5 9 4 0 3 Great
Miguel Olivo 625.2 4 0 23 19 -4 -3.7 1 Above Avg
David Ross 421.2 4 0 20 12 -8 -1.6 0 Average
Kelly Shoppach 566 2 1 21 17 -4 -1.3 -1 Below Avg
Yorvit Torrealba 470 -2 -2 20 20 0 -1.7 -3 Poor
                -5 Awful

Internal Options

Lots of Twitter Critters (© me 2010  :)  ) yesterday were suggesting that we should fill from within until McCann returns. We still have to find a backup for Laird during the time BMac isn’t available. Here’s what we have internally.  Wednesday career minor leaguer J.C. Boscan signed with the Cubs and the Braves have shown little inclination to use Jose Yepez – he’s not on the 40 man roster – in any capacity other than minor league catcher. Evan Gattis is not a major league ready backstop by any stretch of the imagination though his bat is probably ready for the show now so he could be the emergency catcher. McCann’s heir apparent Christian Bethanourt is superb catch and throw man now whose bat still isn’t ready for prime time. Bethancourt has been slower to develop standing at the plate than behind it and breaking his wrist last year didn’t help.  He is only 20 years old and the bat may well come along eventually so he may be an option in order to give him a taste of the bigs but it does use up an option the Braves may not want to waste. Exposing him at the major league level and be the catcher on a championship contending team could well stunt his growth as a hitter permanently so I suspect it will be either Gattis or Yepez.

That’s A Wrap

Laird’s an average catcher with a slight edge in blocking passed balls according to the metrics.  His ability to throw out runners has declined to the point where it is lower than his reputation. Players tend to test catchers to see how they are doing lately anyway so we’ll see next year how his arm really is.  The reports of Laird’s signing will make Casey Stern smile as he predicted this a days ago.   I disagreed and suggested we should be looking for someone who could catch everyday in the event McCann isn’t back when expected, is traded or walks after this year.  We both agree Laird isn’t that man. A two year deal means it isn’t a band-aid designed to get the Braves through the year. Laird however is no longer an everyday catcher so if McCann walks it would mean trading for a full time capable catcher. The free agent market in 2014 is thin at best; McCann and a group of backups unless Napoli takes a one year deal somewhere. Catchers are a hot commodity these days so a trade for a good one would be costly. The Braves lack an obvious plan for 2014 other than hoping:

  1. Bethancourt learns to hit or
  2. Gattis learns to catch or
  3. BMac takes a big home town discount from the $20M a year for 5 or more years he’ll be offered elsewhere.

I doubt 1 or 2 will happen in one season particularly if they continue to try an dmake Gattis an outfielder. So the the Braves will either have to match the market for BMAC (unlikely) or return to the days of accepting that they hire a catcher for defense and wait on Bethancourt. 

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