While the Phillies organization is full of young catching depth, they need an experienced back-up to lead the way this offseason
For years Carlos Ruiz was the guy behind the mask controlling the entire game. With Chooch’s disappointing departure, the Phillies brought in A.J. Ellis from the Dodgers in the trade. Ellis was not here to provide a consistent bat, but rather work with Cameron Rupp and Jorge Alfaro to help them improve behind the plate.
Yesterday Ellis tweeted his appreciation towards the organization, indicating they informed him he will not be back in 2017.
This leaves Philly with a hole in the dugout once filled by players such as Brian Schneider. With a roster already depleted of veterans, not having a second Major League catcher leaves the Phillies looking for help.
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Assuming he is not moved over the offseason, Cameron Rupp is the everyday catcher for the Phillies. However behind him sits prospects Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp. Both Alfaro and Knapp will most likely be with the Phillies in spring training, but neither will sit on the bench behind Rupp.
Whether you start Rupp or trade him and pick between Alfaro or Knapp, there’s an obvious need for a mentor. Should Rupp get hurt, there will be an even bigger problem.
There are a couple of interesting options available in free agency heading into the offseason. You can eliminate the everyday players such as Jonathan Lucroy, Matt Wieters, and Wilson Ramos.
Dioner Navarro was an All-Star for the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays and lost to the Phillies in the World Series. He’s become a journey-man as of late, playing for six teams over the past seven years. A switch-hitter, Navarro will be 33-years-old by Opening Day next season
Two of baseballs fossils A.J. Pierzynski and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are the other names to watch. Pierzynski could very well retire at 39-years-old, but sitting on the bench, teaching the next generation, and getting a spot-start for $2 million? It would be the perfect situation for both sides.
Saltalamacchia has a name the covers his jersey shoulder-to-shoulder, and has an even longer resume. He’s got a World Series ring from his days with the Red Sox, and has spent much of his career as a switch-hitting journey-man. “Salty” can do all the same things Pierzynski and Navarro can, while bringing an even better bat that could play every five or six days.
Saltalamacchia would be my top choice to replace Ellis as the veteran catcher in Philadelphia. He’ll become a valuable trade chip in July and August, while providing both offense and words of wisdom to Rupp, Alfaro, and Knapp.