Injury forces Phillies' hand to sign another veteran catcher during spring training

With third-string catcher Rafael Marchán dealing with yet another injury, the Phillies have been forced to add some catching depth.

Minnesota Twins v Cleveland Guardians
Minnesota Twins v Cleveland Guardians / Ron Schwane/GettyImages

In a recent spring training transaction, the Philadelphia Phillies signed catcher Cam Gallagher to a minor league contract last Sunday, the team announced on X. The contract includes an invite to major league spring training camp as a non-roster invitee.

At first glance, this appeared to be an organizational depth move since the Phillies have mainly just three catchers in their system (J.T. Realmuto, Garrett Stubbs, and Rafael Marchán) who would be playable in the majors. Their next best catching prospect, Caleb Ricketts, is still developing in High-A.

However, digging a little deeper, the move is actually an insurance option, as third-string catcher Rafael Marchán is currently nursing a minor back injury, which was announced before Grapefruit League games began last weekend.

Marchán's back problems are not a new issue

Marchán first suffered the injury during Winter ball, playing for the Tigres de Aragua of the Venezuelan Winter League just prior to the playoffs. He experienced back discomfort at the time, ending what was a strong campaign for Marchán with the Tigres. In 32 games, he batted .333 with a .982 OPS, 18 runs scored, 10 doubles, three home runs, 23 RBI, 16 walks and just 11 strikeouts. He also provided solid defense behind the plate, committing zero errors and throwing out 30 percent of the base stealers.

Before the end of the Winter season, Marchán had expressed that he was feeling good, in an interview with Meridiano, and that the physical discomfort he had at the end of December was now gone. His aim was to get back in shape and be ready as soon as possible.

"I feel good. The physical discomfort that I had at the end of the month of December, thank God, is gone," Marchán told Meridiano. "The most important thing is that I am now with the team again, doing everything to be ready as soon as possible."

Marchán has dealt with injuries for two seasons

But now, with March upon us, issues with his back have flared up again, creating a little more cause for concern. When it comes to injuries, luck sure hasn’t been on Marchán’s side in recent years. He has begun each of the past two seasons on the sidelines, with a left hamstring injury in 2022 that put him out for two months and a fractured hamate bone in his right wrist in 2023 that kept him out of action for almost three months.

So, given Marchán’s current injury history, the Phillies are probably playing it safe by recruiting Gallagher as a safety net for the ballclub. Gallagher is a seven-year MLB veteran who has seen time in the major leagues mainly as a backup catcher for the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Guardians. In 227 career games, he has hit .211 with 47 runs scored, 33 doubles, seven home runs, and 46 RBI. Defensively, he has thrown out 21 percent of base stealers and has maintained a solid .992 fielding percentage.

Hopefully, Marchán will have a fast recovery and be back in action soon. At least the Phillies have added a solid backup plan to ensure they have everything covered going into the 2024 season.