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.