Dodgers Roster: What’s the Logic in Carrying Three Catchers?


When I first heard the news on Friday that the Dodgers traded Travis d’Arnaud to the Rays, the first thing that entered my mind was trying to figure out how the club would utilize the empty spot on the 25-man roster.

Not long after the deal occurred, reports surfaced that the team would indeed replace d’Arnaud with another catcher on the active roster. At that point, my thoughts immediately went to Will Smith at Triple-A Oklahoma City, even though he’s not on the 40-man roster. Smith already has 10 extra-base hits through 26 games this season. Four of those hits happen to be long balls.

Regardless of my own inclination, the team ultimately decided to recall Rocky Gale, who had two hits in fourteen AB in a previous big league stint earlier in the season. Gale is probably the safer bet when it comes to defense, but I felt that Smith may have been able to provide a little more pop offensively. After all, if the team has three catchers on its 25-man, you’d think a couple of them would have some serious pop.

In Triple-A last year, Gale just had four homers in 295 AB. Smith has already matched that HR total in just 26 games this season.

In spite of all that, the decision to recall Gale makes sense on several levels, anyway. It allows the squad to use both Austin Barnes and Russell Martin more freely, especially for in-game substitutions when either is not starting behind the plate.

In recent years, the Dodgers became one of those teams that is not afraid to pinch-hit the second catcher. Some teams still see this as a risk, because if an emergency situation would arise with the primary catcher, there will be almost no options for a remedy. Yet, even though the Dodgers regularly take that risk, most of those situations are late in the game when the odds of an injury have decreased.

Martin is probably past his days of dabbling at third base, but Barnes has shown he can handle a little bit of second base, giving the team some secondary options in the field. Furthermore, Barnes has deceptive speed, and is much faster than several of the other options off the bench. This could certainly come in handy in a pinch-running scenario, when the need to score one run is critical. And, in a situation when Martin is starting—or vice-versa—with the presence of Gale, skipper Dave Roberts no longer needs to hesitate if he wants to use Barnes or Martin as a pinch-hitter in the earlier stages of a game.

More importantly, I think the biggest reason for the move, though, is that there’s simply not a better right-handed bat on the fringe who is a proven big league hitter. Smith may be the closest (and we may see him later in the season), but the logic right now is that either Barnes or Martin off the bench is a better option than any other minor league righty hitter who’s on the 40-man.

One consideration that may be intriguing in the near future, however, is right-handed hitting outfielder Kyle Garlick. The 27-year-old minor league journeyman already has nine home runs and is hitting .284/.376/.637 over 102 AB for OKC this year. If he continues to produce at this rate, perhaps it is an option the team will explore soon. There are two spots open on the team’s 40-man, so that will not be an issue.

While there’s no guarantee that outfielder A.J. Pollock will recover swiftly from his arm surgery, there’s really no need for panic when it comes to stacking the roster just yet. Situations like these are perfect for the trade deadline should they still be evident late in the summer.

In the meantime, as long as both Barnes and Martin stay completely healthy, the team should be just fine.


21 thoughts on “Dodgers Roster: What’s the Logic in Carrying Three Catchers?

  1. Dennis…Smith is not on the 40 man roster. Ruiz is. My thinking is that both Martin and Barnes can play other positions. Gale cannot. So they could conceivably put Gale back there and one of the other two on the field to replace a player injured or ill during the game. There might also be a situation where Martin or Barnes is the preferred pinch hitter. Anyway, who knows what lurks in Ol Andy’s brain.

      1. I keep forgetting that they have been doing that this year. Maybe ol Andy has something up his sleeve anyway…2 old Dodgers got new homes this morning. Josh Fields signed with the Rangers, and Edwin Jackson was traded to the Jays. Altherr was picked up off waivers by the Giants.

      2. I just read that….Colon is right on his heels at 13….but doubt he gets another shot at the majors

  2. When you’re only carrying 12 position players, I think that each of the three non-starters should at least be a half decent pinch hitter. Gale is not. I’m willing to bet that the amount of times we see Martin or Barnes playing anything other than catcher will be between zero and one. Statistics show that a catcher getting injured in the last 4 innings (the time most likely to use a pinch hitter) is basically “hardly ever”. As long as you have someone who can put on the tools of ignorance in a dire emergency it is absolutely worth testing the odds. I believe Farhan, who is a math genius, agrees with me. I would never carry three catchers unless the third guy was a half decent hitter who could be used to pinch hit on a regular basis.

      1. At this point Garlick seems like the most worthy guy, although I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a hard time of it when he got here. He deserves a shot. Long term, I expect AF to trade for someone, but for today I’d definitely prefer Garlick to Gale. Smith needs some more time at OKC even though he’s doing OK there.

    1. Oh good. Now we have 3 catchers that can barely hit 200 which means half our pinch hitters off the bench. So much for our vaunted “depth”.

  3. No one at AAA is tearing the cover off of the ball. They have pared 3 players from that roster in the last week, Carerra, Orlando, and Smoker. Garlick is hitting .284 with 9 dingers, so he could be a choice. He did ok in spring. I also noticed that they have added Gailen to the AAA outfield. Not much power, but a lot of experience. Thole is hitting a lot better than Gale is and he is a lefty hitter. Would have made more sense than Gale. But Smith is part of the future, so I am pretty sure they want him playing as much as possible. He is OPSing over 800. But he has also made 4 errors in 26 games. Not sure all of those are behind the dish since he can also play 3rd.

  4. Gale makes NO sense to me! I don’t get it! I think he has pictures of AF and the organist!

  5. And the bullpen shits the bed again. No need to fix Friedman, just look away and maybe the problem will magically disappear!!!!!

    1. This one is on Turner there Alex. He makes that play, which was pretty routine and it is two outs and no one on. He throws it away and runners on second and third. Inning should have never gotten that far out of hand.

    2. No earned runs given up and you lose? Not exactly championship baseball.

      I’m with Bear. This one isn’t on pitching.

      1. Of course it’s on the pitching! A walk, single and homer after the error. When you relieve in the eigth with 2 on and 2 run lead we might expect better results. Doesnt matter how one of the runners got on.

    1. Parra is not a lousy hitter. He has been a thorn in the Dodgers side no matter where he has played. No, Floro did make a bad pitch…one bad pitch and it got hit out. But the fact remains, had Turner done his job, Baez would have never loaded the bases. You have to look at what led up to that point and TURNER”s error skewed the whole inning.

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