Would you be comfortable with Andrew Knapp being the Phillies backstop backup plan?
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak has had an outstanding offseason, one that could net him an Executive of the Year award if the season is successful. Entering the offseason there were 11 things we listed on the Phillies wish list for this offseason, and they’ve completed about half of those desires through free agency and trades.
One of the items checked off was to upgrade the catcher position, something the J.T. Realmuto trade did with a large black sharpie. Realmuto gives the Phillies one of the best backstops in baseball both at and behind the plate.
Set to backup Realmuto is Andrew Knapp, who enters his third big league season as the team’s backup.
Despite playing in 28 more games, Knapp’s stats were down across the board, with an exception to one extra home run and two more RBI. The 27-year-old has proven himself to be nothing more than an average backup in the big leagues.
However, should something happen to Realmuto, the Phillies would be in major trouble this season after going all-in this winter.
Philadelphia’s farm system is already deprived of catching talent with Realmuto and Knapp the only backstops on the 40-man roster.
Twenty-three-year-old prospect Deivi Grullon played 90 games in Double-A last year and isn’t considered to be a major prospect in the organization.
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The question Klentak and the front office face is simple: would you be comfortable with Knapp and Butera as your catchers this year if (knock on wood) Realmuto suffers a season-ending injury?
The easy answer is ‘no,’ but finding that upgrade at this point of the season will be tough. The two “big name” catchers remaining on the free agent market are veteran Matt Wieters and former Gold Glove winner Martin Maldonado, both of whom turn 32 this season.
Would either Wieters or Maldonado be an upgrade over Knapp or Butera? I think it would be a resounding ‘yes’ on multiple fronts from the Phillies front office.
Maldonado had the second-best fielding percentage and range factor/game among catchers who played at least 100 games last year.
Wieters has more pop, but did win back-to-back Gold Gloves with the Orioles a couple of years ago.
Both Maldonaldo and Wieters would be major upgrades over Knapp from a defensive standard and in the case of Wieters, power off the bench.
Adding either to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training would create terrific competition for the Phillies, something Gabe Kapler strives for. Picking up another veteran gives the club insurance going into the 2019 season and could push Knapp to win the backup job out of camp.